Let’s be clear: it is perfectly valid to desire things to be different than they are, but the first step to change anything is to accept ‘what is.’ The famous quote of Carl Rogers, the humanistic psychologist, speaks volumes about this. He wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
All of us experience suffering, but what generates it? A big part of the suffering we experience comes from not accepting reality as it is and desiring it to be what it is not. We suffer when people, things, and events are not as we wish them to be, but we have to understand that we will also suffer when people, things, and events are exactly as we want them to be because sooner or later a change is going to come and they will no longer be as they are. Change is unavoidable, and our clinging to impermanent states and things — our desire for conditions and circumstances not to change — is a sure cause of suffering.
Not only we suffer, but we continue to suffer because we wrongly believe that the way to placate our suffering is to seek pleasure. So we engage again in craving and clinging, and we end up trapped in this vicious circle, spending our lives chasing people, things, events, and situations that, we imagine, will fill that void inside ourselves.
But no pleasure, no accomplishment, no person, no thing, no event, nor any situation is capable of producing lasting satisfaction. If we could reduce the craving for what we want, and the aversion directed at what we don’t want, we surely would suffer a lot less. We would not spend so much time judging and saying to ourselves, “I approve this. I disapprove that. I like this. I don’t like that. I want this. I don’t want that.” We would not try to hold on so tightly to the wanted, nor engage in vain attempts of trying to push the unwanted away. We would accept reality as it presents itself, and not waste energy futilely fighting it. We would be at peace with the inexorable and perpetual change.
In this aspect, mindfulness practice is extremely helpful because it is the practice that develops in us the ability to be aware and not cling.
Once and for all, we need to internalize the idea that the beginning of the process of liberation from suffering is to make a wise assessment of reality and say to ourselves, “This is what it is, and from here I will use wise discernment to choose the best courses of action. I am aware of change and I am not clinging. I will be aware of change and I will not cling. And I will remember that nothing whatsoever should be clung to as I, me, or mine.”
“Whenever you experience any pain or difficulty, always remember one of the deep meanings of the word suffering: asking the world for something it can never give you. We expect and ask impossible things from the world. We ask for the perfect home and job and that all the things we work hard to build and arrange run perfectly at the right time and place. Of course, that is asking for something that can never be given. We ask for profound meditation and enlightenment, right here and now. But that’s not the way this universe works. If you ask for something that the world can’t supply, you should understand that you’re asking for suffering.” ~ Ajahn Brahm, an UK-born Theravada Buddhist monk, who is currently the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia. Brahm was ordained in Bangkok at the age of twenty-three by the Abbot of Wat Saket, and subsequently spent nine years studying and training in the forest meditation tradition under Ajahn Chah. Excerpt above is the opening chapter of his book, “Art of Disappearing.”
Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect and write, and who not only aspires to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches Mindfulness Meditation and Mindful Living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He leads mindfulness silent retreats and organizes Silent Peace Walks. He lives in Florida, USA. Join his Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness Living sessions at Yoga Source in Coral Springs (Sundays at 9:00 AM) and at Shiwa Yoga in Deerfield Beach (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 AM)
Take a look at these books at the Peaceful Ways online store
– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”
– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”
– “Silent Peace Walk”