Watching Your Suffering – And Transforming It

Watching your suffering

Watching your suffering can truly transform your anguish and distress. While it is not necessary to adhere to any specific school of thought to do this, one remembers that the Buddha explicitly stated that his interest lay in teaching how to understand and stop suffering. Amongst the noble truths that the Buddha came upon, the first states that there is suffering, and that it should be understood.

This really means that in order to stop suffering we cannot simply take recourse in distractions or avoidance. We have to watch and listen to our suffering, and make that a practice. Watching your suffering means that you willingly pause and observe the fact of the pain or distress and not just look for a fix or a solution. In bringing an end to suffering, we have to get to its root and to do that our focus must be on this suffering and not on our urge to get rid of what is causing us distress. There is the fact of suffering. That is what the noble truth says, that it is there. When we acknowledge this, there comes the patience to watch it, be receptive to its texture, its feel, its changingness. In other words, there comes the wisdom to happily accept it.

Watching your suffering means to not immediately react to it by wanting something else or complaining, comparing, blaming and avoiding. We choose to explore it, fully cognizant of the fact that in order to end suffering our attention must be fully on it, and not on something else. This sort of observance and attention transforms our mind. That is the only way to end suffering, to train and transform our mind. We have to see that the desire to get rid of our pain and our various reactions and responses to it do not permanently end it. No matter how elaborate, our fixes are temporary and the urge for such a fix is of the nature of suffering itself, and if suffering is not understood, such urges and fixes actually perpetuate our anguish.

True transformation can only come from attention, from exploring, from being open to investigating the nature of our suffering. What is it like? And not what can I do about it! Understanding suffering is to truly see that it is our responses, our habitual machinations that cause our suffering in the first place. If the mind learns not to react, we are not torn by the perception that things should be any other way, and there comes peace and equanimity. That is lasting transformation, and not just another response towards a supposedly desirable end. Contemplating the first noble truth, that there is suffering and that it should be understood brings us to the realization that the search for a pleasing end is actually suffering itself! In keenly watching your suffering, you literally end it because there is no looking for a desirable end, there is the acknowledgement of our pain and the only true uncovering of its root.

With this sort of focus there comes the realization that no matter what it is, it is just another condition that arises and ceases. If we don’t watch our suffering, we never really see that all there is are conditions arising and ceasing because our attention is on creating more such inconstant conditions. We have to see that our body is a condition, our environment is a condition, our mind is a condition. Our experiences are nothing but a train of conditions. Arising and ceasing. If we are caught up in constantly reaching to fix or change things, we deprive ourselves of attention on the root of the issue. Sitting with what causes us distress is paying attention to what is. This lets us actually see the fact that conditions come and go. That they are never going to be stable and bring lasting satisfaction. We see this fact only when we sit with what is going on and never when we are reaching through our minds and our actions to alter or remedy what is going on.

Why do this? Perhaps because it is the only sure way of becoming fulfilled and happier. Our circumstances are conditions, inconstant and subject to change. There is no way that any particular condition that we are seeking will be completely satisfying. We see this only when we pause and sit with what is, and with this focus come to see that the true uncovering of distress is to witness its arising and ceasing. The movement that is life and existence is constant flux and flow. We have to truly see this to be able to generate a space that is completely free. And all this comes from attention to what is, never from seeking to alter, fix or change. So, in many ways the discovery of a space that is completely free is the result of this watching, this attention. Being in this space is liberating and healing. All it takes is attention, not on how you want to be but attention on what is occurring at this very moment, without analysis or avoidance. That is the power of watching your suffering, of just witnessing what is.

If you would like help or guidance on how you can generate the space to be free, connect with me……

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