When people ask me why I resonate with Buddhism, it’s hard for me to articulate. The relevance of the teachings to the really juicy stuff of life are endless and profound. Below are the beginnings of me making an attempt to demonstrate just a tiny piece of what it has helped me to understand in my own life.
Meditation & Mindfulness
A core practice of Buddhism is mindfulness. Becoming aware of our thoughts and states of mind. States of body. Coming back to realizing, “oh yeah, I have a body! And I have a mind. What am I feeling in both of those realms and how do they relate?”
These questions get really complex and lead to hours and hours and days of valuable introspection (for me).
It’s really about making your way to the driver seat of your mind. About slowly building an understanding of your inner life; your emotions, behavior, reactions.
The more you delve into this work, the more you can take an approach to your life from a broader lens; from a more “stepped back” perspective that allows you to see all the contributing factors to your emotion and thoughts and beliefs about the happenings of your life.
It allows you to see more truth.
To understand why you might be triggered.
To choose a better way.
First is the development of awareness.
Second is cultivating the capacity to choose different behaviors if appropriate based on that knowledge.
An example from my life:
I’ve developed the awareness that I eat food when I’m upset.
An awareness that the “upset” feeling creates an impulse in me to reach for food. I’ve also developed the awareness that when I eat in this way, (eating food when my body doesn’t need it), I end up feeling worse.
So, first is awareness.
But it’s a whole other feat to be able to choose a different behavior based on that awareness. That’s where I am now.
Cultivating the strength to choose a different path than the habituated, comfortable one that I have strategically inhabited to comfort myself.
I have the awareness that it was a strategy I created in order to cope with difficult emotion. I have the felt experience of this in my own body and mind, rather than just the concept comprehension. I’ve watched the emotion come up, and my immediate reaction to reach for food, and my consequential mind and body suffering.
I have observed this course of events many, many, many, many times.
I am now rubbing up against the discomfort that is the knowledge that I must act in a way that is unfamiliar to me.
If I want this pattern to change, I have to have the courage to stand compassionately with myself while these urges arise and gently guide myself towards a better way.
It will be uncomfortable. The suffering that the food serves to numb will rise and rear its ugly head. I’ll have to face it and be with it and nurture my way through feeling the thing I so desperately don’t want to feel.
This is the way through.
Organically, a new way to nurture and care for myself in these times will develop and that will become my new “habit”. It just takes that morsel of courage to step into the unknown — into the meadow with your demon.
She will unfurl her claws and bare her teeth but the moment you take a step towards her, her stance will soften.
Her gaze: from fire and hatred, to one of relief.
Her scales will fall away and as you approach her, her form will change and you will stop at her feet and find a small child, begging to be cared for.
This is the true nature of our suffering and the demons that we view as the cause.
The action of turning toward and accepting into your embrace is what will disarm and soften these “ugly” bits of our lives.
It probably won’t happen in such swift motion as I described above.
In fact I guarantee it will not.
Our own fears of the demon will get in the way, our old patterns kicking in without us realizing.
It’s this step-by-step, one day at a time approach; the keeping your compassionate eye on the target that will ultimately allow you to incorporate this lonely child into your heart so you may live, side-by-side, with that piece of you that may always need just a little bit of extra attention.