Turning Towards Suffering with Heartfulness, by Mark Coleman:
So, this evening, in a similar way that Mary talked beautifully yesterday about the first foundation of mindfulness being very sensual, fundamental, foundational piece of this practice, what I want to give tonight, the teaching on some of the four noble truths is also one of those platform or foundational teachings that you probably all know very well both on your experience, you may have heard talks, hundreds of talks on this thing if you’ve sat one enough, you’ve probably have. And, there seems to be no end to which we can plumb the depth of this teaching. Suffering and the end of suffering. The Buddha said, I teach and one thing only—suffering and its end.
So, unless somebody here has come to the end of suffering, please raise your hand, you may give this talk. Then, this teaching still applies. And so I invite you to have a beginner’s mind with this teaching. And I’m always of in awe or inspired myself when I hear this teaching particularly like hearing it from ___ who has made of this teaching his life practice his last 40 some years, and never ceased into light into giving teachings about it, and exploring the subtlety and depths.
So I wanted to start with a poem that speaks a little to both sides of this teaching from ___ called Everything is ___.
Everything is ___,
___ black wing scrapes the air.
Misery ___ to the bone,
Why then do we not despair?
By day from the surrounding worlds,
Cherish blow summer into town.
At night, the deep, transparent ___ skies,
Glitter with new galaxies.
And the miraculous comes so close,
The miraculous comes so close
To the ruined, dirty houses
Something not known to anyone at all
But wild in our beast breathe for centuries.
Everything is ___, betrayed, and sold
Misery ___ to the bone
Why then do we not despair?
By day from the surrounding world,
The winds blows summer into town.
And the miraculous comes so close
To the ruined, dirty houses
The miraculous, the mystery, the beautiful,
Touches the deep and dark places,
In our lives, in our hearts, in our bodies.
So, both are true. We can touch very deep places of despair, and hopelessness, and fear, and anxiety, and sadness, and grief, and loss, and many of you are speaking to this in your interviews. That’s one of the reasons I’m giving this talk tonight.
And, the cherries are blowing summer into town. Spring is here, emits the stones. It’s a great metaphor. Those wild rain, and wind, and storms, and great clouds, and yet the flowers are emerging in the midst of it all. The grasses are growing, the blossoms are still opening, just like what we do.
And so we ask in this life in this practice, how do we meet all of that? How do we hold that? How do we deal with that with an open heart we don’t close down with bitterness and despair? We don’t bypass over it until ___ bliss, but we meet the whole catastrophe ___.
One of the things that I’ve noticed with my own experience in practice in retreat and in life is how humbling they are. Is anybody here are not humbled by this practice? By your mind, the crazy mind, by the body, by the unknown, by the uncertainty, by the mystery. You know, it’s humbling. And not in a bad way, I think it’s a very beautiful quality that emerges in this practice, of humility. Suffering in some ways is a great equalizer. It’s what unites us, it’s what we share. It’s not all that we share.
But here, on the retreat in this practice, we have a different orientation to suffering. In our lives, normally, ordinarily, we’ll do whatever we can to avoid it, to distract ourselves from it, to get really busy, to be really important, to get something, to get the ___ ice cream, whatever it is your chosen distraction of choice. But here, the invitation is to take refuge in what’s true in the way things are, both in the beauty and the sorrow, which means to meet it.
This is from the ___: The essence of pleasure is acceptance. Whatever may be the situation, if it’s acceptable, it’s pleasant. If it’s not acceptable, it’s painful, then you will find an acceptance of pain, a joy which pleasure cannot yield for the simple reason that acceptance of pain takes you much deeper than pleasure does. The personal self by its very nature is constantly pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. The ending of this pattern with this desires and fears enables you to return to your real nature the source of all happiness and peace.
So maybe you’re learning that in accepting, turning, meeting pain, does a deeper joy, a deeper well-being that arises, deeper than any pleasure can give us. So, there’s a certain paradox in this teaching. It seems kind of intuitive that to turn towards our pain would actually take us to a deeper place will than pleasure.
So one of the ways of holding this experience in our meditation on retreat, it’s like a laboratory. We’re creating very ideal conditions in order to study and examine ourselves, our minds, our hearts, and reality. We’re unhindered, undistracted. So we can really see what’s happening. We can see the causes, we can understand its nature. We can understand how to be free in the midst of it.
This is from Suzuki ___: You don’t really know what it means to sit in a meditation until there is some great difficulty in your life. Not until something happens like the grave illness of someone you love and then you’re tearing your hair up and phasing back and forth in the corridor of the hospital and there’s nothing you can do. And finally, you take a sit in the midst of your fears, your sorrows, in your thoughts, and worries, and you just sit in the middle of it all. And that’s the moment you begin to understand the power of your practice.
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