Monthly Archives: April 2020

Looking deeply

“Outside of the First Holy Truth there cannot be any path, holy or unholy.  That is why you have to embrace your suffering, hold it close to your chest, and look deeply into it. The way out of your suffering depends on how you look into it.  That is why suffering is called a Holy Truth.  Look deeply into the nature of the path, using your Buddha-eyes.  The truth of the path is one with the truth of suffering.  Every second I am on the path that leads out of suffering, suffering is there to guide me.  That is why it is a Holy Path.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

As I look deeply into my own suffering I can see that my understanding of it is the way out. I see where my suffering has led me in this life; all the ways that I avoided my responsibilities because they were too hard and overwhelming; seeking relief in alcohol, drugs, relationships, and fantasy. I see how all of those choices and so many more have made me the person I am today. I see that I was not capable then of embracing my suffering as I would a crying baby. Today, as I sit in meditation, I see the ways that I suffer. I offer myself love, comfort, and compassion. I no longer have to tell myself how horrible I am for what I’ve done or what I want to do. I simply hold those feelings, allowing them to arise and pass away, knowing they are just feelings – a part of life.


Continue to work with your feelings or thoughts or whatever arises in your sitting practice. Allow everything to arise and pass away naturally without commentary. Should the commentary begin, allow that to pass away also. Don’t hold on to anything.

The roller-coaster ride!

“The fact is that we will all experience ups and downs no matter who we are.  That’s part of the rollercoaster ride.  Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic; it is realistic.” Lama Surya Das Awakening the Buddha Within

The First Noble Truth is the truth of universal suffering… we all suffer. This seems pretty simple. We know it’s true. We see it in all of the lives of all of the people we know. And yet… when it happens to us – when we have a problem, we are incensed and our own suffering arises. “WHY?” we ask. “How could this happen to me? I am a good person. I do everything I’m supposed to do. Why do I feel this way?” We are shocked by our difficulties and rail against it. This is the arising of suffering. Others may experience difficulties and we sympathize and comfort. That’s fine for them. But, me? No. I always feel good. I cannot have these bad feelings because I do all the things I’m supposed to do to keep the bad feelings away. So then, to the suffering that has already arisen, we add shame. “There must be something wrong with me if I feel this way.  If I were truly doing everything right, I would feel good all the time, like I’m supposed to.” We deny that difficulty is a part of life and so suffer because of this delusion.


Continue your reflection on how suffering looks in your life. Simply sit with the awareness of suffering without judgment or criticism.  Open your mind and heart to the experience and the knowledge of the reality of suffering. Notice the shame that may be connected to your suffering and the way that you habitually speak to yourself about yourself when bad things happen.

The Problem…

Thanissaro Bhikkhu said “dukkha describes that which is incapable of being satisfied.”

The First Noble truth, or the Truth of Suffering, is often taught as “life is suffering,” rather than “There is suffer.” A man I once knew said to me “Oh I hate Buddhism – always suffering, suffering, suffering. I don’t want to hear about suffering.” The perception a lot of people have is that the Dharma is so negative, because it teaches this as a reality we cannot avoid or pretend does not exist.

The First Noble Truth tells us what the problem is – everybody’s problem – all living beings. We all suffer. The Pali word generally translated as suffering is dukkha, which means so much more than just suffering. It means dissatisfaction, uneasiness, unhappiness, anxiety, frustration, all those feelings and any of those feelings. It is how we think and feel about physical pain, emotional pain, psychic pain.

The First Noble Truth doesn’t say that life is constant suffering. It simply says that we all experience dissatisfaction, uneasiness, unhappiness, anxiety, and frustration. Everyone virtually without exception experiences some form of discomfort, even if it’s just boredom. Resistance and avoidance of that discomfort create suffering.


As we build this sitting practice we will find that everything arises: all of the things we wish for; all of things we love; all of the things we hate; all of the things we obsess over. They are all treated with the same love and respect. We notice them and release them. It is the way we begin to learn that everything in life passes. The pleasant and the unpleasant and the neutral all pass away. Holding on to them only creates suffering. Allowing them to pass away naturally creates space and peace in life – a natural flow.

The first noble truth–There is suffering.

“Let’s start with the Buddha’s first discourse, delivered to his five former ascetic companions in the Deer Park at Sarnath, near Benares.  It was here, several weeks after the awakening and his ensuing ambivalence about saying anything at all, that compassion moved him to embrace the anguish of others.  Plunging into the treacherous sea of words, he “set in motion the wheel of the dharma.” This short discourse can be summed up as follows: The Buddha declares how he has found the central path through avoiding indulgence and mortification.  He then describes four ennobling truths: those of anguish, its origins, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation.”

                                                Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without beliefs, pge 3

The Four Noble Truths are the foundation of the Buddha-Dharma. He told his friends that all beings suffer, that the causes of suffering are universal, that suffering can cease and that there is a way of life that can lead us to the cessation of suffering.

Batchelor says the First Noble Truth is the truth of anguish; M. Scott Peck opened his book The Road Less Traveled by saying “Life is difficult. This is the first great truth of the Buddha.” However you say it, it is the truth of suffering. Life itself is not suffering, rather all of us suffer. There is no way to escape the difficulties of life. Difficulties are inherent to this existence. In fact, it is so normal to have difficulties that we have a bumper sticker about it.  “Shit Happens.” And that’s right, it does.

If your life is anything like mine, there’s always something going on that could potentially throw you off kilter. This is how life is. It isn’t personal. No matter how well we care for our homes or cars they will get old and start to need major repair. No matter how well we do our work, how perfectly we show up; how compliant we are, we will eventually lose the job, if for no other reason than getting old. No matter how healthy we are, no matter how well we care for ourselves, we will die, and our loved ones will die. Nothing is perfect and eternal. Everything changes, everything arises and passes away. This is the nature of life.


Ask yourself as you begin your meditation how it is that suffering is manifesting in your life today. Then see what arises while you sit. Do the images of the difficulties arise, or do the conversations replay in your mind, or does anxiety or anger arise? These all show us where our difficulties are and how we are dealing with them. Just notice. No need to comment or criticize. Simply allow the awareness of your difficulties be present in your mind. Allow compassion to arise in your heart.