Look Deeply at the Source of Suffering
“When the cause of suffering has been
Thich Nhat Hanh
What makes you miserable? Do you see your problems being
caused by things outside of yourself? If someone asks, “How ya doin’?”
do you recount your travails. Do you tell them about the terrible
traffic, the bad weather, those rotten kids, the government, the stock
market, corrupt skating judges, your ex? As long as you perceive the
causes of suffering as outside yourself, you are a victim of those
forces. When you notice the source of your misery in your own thinking
you begin to have power over the suffering.
If a dog bites a child, the painful experience may cause the child
to grow up fearful of dogs, maybe hating them. The experience engenders
anger, suspicion and avoidance. Not being open to meeting new dogs, the
adult defines him or herself as a cat person, not a dog person, and
closed to the experience of friendly dogs as well as biting dogs. Being
fearful around dogs, the person may repeatedly create bad experiences
them, which reinforce the belief that the problem is dogs, and not his
her thinking about them or behavior around them.
For others of us, the pain may have been inflicted by parents,
men, women, teachers, cops, society, the system, the church, or some
other person or group of persons. As long as our anger and fear focus
on what’s wrong with
other people and the wrongness of them not changing to meet our
expectations, we are going to suffer.
What to do? We can start by accepting that our suffering is caused
by our own craving, aversion, ignorance, and misperceptions. Then we
loosen our grip on the thoughts and emotions that keep us unhappy.
go of the roots of suffering allows us to live more joyfully.
When you notice that you are unhappy, take time to
reflect on your unhappiness:
Notice the suffering.
Drop your inclination to blame someone or something for your
suffering and recognize that your unhappiness is a function of your own
Calmly, look to the source.
What are you sensing/perceiving?
What are you thinking?
What are your emotions?
What are the causes of your perceptions, thoughts and emotions?
What conditions led to these experiences?
Look for anger, fear, selfish desire, or prejudice.
Consider if there might be a different way to experience your
situation, one infused with wisdom and compassion. How might you view
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© 2002 Tom Barrett