The Potential for Freedom by Noah Levine:
So, here we are at the end of the first day. First full day of silent, sometimes we call it intensive silent meditation practice. Having had the opportunity and the experience of being with your own mind and body all day, attempting to be mindful of the breath, sensations in the body, hopefully successful to some extent or another for moments, here and there, being present, being in your body, being aware of your breath. And it becomes clear quite quickly to anybody who’s new to this and of course, there’s of you who’ve been – for a while. It’s not so easy.
The instructions are so simple—just pay attention. Just pay attention and be kind to yourself and you will uncover all of this wisdom and compassion, you’ll become a Buddha if you do that. Easy to say, easy, simple instructions, but not so, uh, not so easy to do for most of us.
We’re born into these bodies that don’t seem to make happiness all that easy to find. We’re born with this mind, brain, but doesn’t like to stay in the present. With the mind, its tendency is to worry about the future. Did you notice that today?
The instructions for awakening are very simple. It was even, at once said, supposedly said, that the Buddha’s dharma, the Buddha’s teachings in this – are so simple that it can be understood by a seven year old child. They’re not complicated. They’re not difficult.
Doing the work that is pointed to experiencing the freedom that is available is the difficult part, not the concept. The concept is very simple—pay attention. Come into harmony with impermanence, stop clinging—simple. Simple concept.
We were born into this mind and body, process, system that doesn’t make it so happen so simple. I would go as far as to say, for one way of looking at it, that happiness is well-being, contentment from freedom, from suffering—it’s not our birth right. We don’t get to be at ease just become we were born. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.
Having taken birth as a human being, what we inherit is this body that is evolved in a survival based mentality that is run still even in our evolution if we want to think that humans are so evolved, spiritual, intellectual, we have so many philosophies about life. But still, it becomes quite clear that actually what’s happening here is that we live in a body that is run by craving for pleasure and survival instinct that is fuelling the body, the emotions, the psyche that has evolved to survive. We’re craving for pleasure. It’s our survival instinct. On the flipside, aversion to pain, not wanting the unpleasant sensations of sitting still all day, walking slowly of not having enough chocolate for dessert, not getting to read your favorite book or watch your favorite television shows, the absence of pleasure and the presence.
Those difficulties. Difficult mind states, unpleasant emotions and sensations. Not with resistance, not with a nervous system, a body that rejects pain that’s built into us, that’s not your fault. But as the Buddha points out, because this is so, because craving is the way it is, because aversion is the natural reaction to pain, we experience all of these sufferings in life, all these difficulty, all this unsatisfactory. And yes, but we can’t get enough pleasure. And the pleasure that we do get doesn’t stay long enough.
And we can’t get away from pain, no matter how hard we try. And I have tried. And I know you have tried, too, to avoid pain and to create pleasure in your life. And it’s not just possible. It’s completely and totally impossible to create a life of constant pleasure and absence of pain. You know, this is clearly, what the Buddha is pointing to in the first noble truth: The truth of life is going to be difficult. That there’s going to be stress, suffering.
And clearly, in this difficulty in life isn’t somehow your fault. And that’s such good news. Such good news. Normalizing statement. If you’re suffering, welcome to planet earth. Everyone else’s too. That’s the status quo here for the unenlightened. If you crave life to be pleasurable all of the time, or at least more often that it is, as when you said last night, if you walk around with that feeling of it’s not just right of the way it is, a lack of acceptance, a feeling that it should be different.
If we really look at what’s underneath that feeling, what the difference is it should be more pleasurable that it is. That’s what’s wrong here. It should be less painful than it is.
I know you’re seeing all of this in your own mind, in your own body as you pay attention to the breath. This is what we see as we practice mindfulness.
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