Welcome to Stage 2: Delving Deeper
Week 1: The Four Noble Truths
Welcome to Stage 2, The beginning of this stage will set the scene for the following weeks. Suffering is the name of the game and mindfulness is the antidote! You can listen to me talk about the four noble truths here or continue reading for the written version.
The word "suffering" for me always invoked a lot of images involving medieval torture chambers for some reason! Or it seemed to be something that happened to people when terrible events occurred in their lives. "They suffered greatly" of "they're really suffering" were sentences I heard after an accident or an operation or the death of a loved one so I was surprised when I began to see it in Mindfulness books and on courses.
Surely I wasn't "suffering"?
The Buddhists say that some of our sources of suffering are: running after fame, eating incorrectly, sleeping too much or chasing after possessions.
"I teach suffering, its origin, cessation and path. That's all I teach",
declared the Buddha 2500 years ago.
Buddha was 29 years old when he left his family to search for way to end his and others suffering. He was not a God, he was a human being like me or you and he suffered just as we do. He studied meditation for many years with lots of teachers and after 6 years he found himself sitting underneath a Bodhi tree and vowed not to stand up until he achieved enlightenment. As morning arose he had a profound breakthrough and he became a Buddha. From then he vowed to dedicate his life to teach people how to alleviate their suffering.
The Four Noble Truths contain the essence of the Buddha's teachings. They are:
Dukha – the recognition and acknowledgement of the presence of suffering within us.
Samudaya - The truth of the origin of suffering. That is, what are doing that causes this suffering.
Nirodha - the cessation of suffering. That is we stop doing the things that make us suffer.
Marga - this is the path that leads to the cessation of suffering and leads into the 8 fold path of enlightenment which is Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration
The Buddha is often compared to a physician. In the first two Noble Truths he diagnosed the problem (suffering) and identified its cause. The third Noble Truth is the realisation that there is a cure. The fourth Noble Truth, in which the Buddha set out the Eight-fold Path, is the prescription, the way to achieve a release from suffering.
According to the Buddhists, without suffering you cannot grow. Without suffering you cannot get the peace and joy you deserve. No human is beyond suffering but through the mindfulness teachings of understanding and compassion we can heal this suffering.
Real Life Example:
I remember a few years ago coming out of a hairdressers feeling as if my life was somehow lacking. It was an odd feeling that I became very aware of as it was so unusual in this context. I’d just had a lovely treatment and I loved my new hair cut so I had nothing to be upset about.
It was a while later that it dawned on me what it was. A long time ago I made the conscious decision to stop buying magazines or looking at papers (I get my news on the radio or tv when I want to listen to it) For the two and a half hours I was in the hairdresser’s I had been reading all sorts of women’s magazines and afterwards I had these feelings of my life been not good enough.
It began to make perfect sense to me, after all I had spent a long time looking at images of women who looked incredible, leading lives of incredibleness and not a wrinkle, grey hair or bit of cellulite on show. That’s a lot of illusions (and impossible ones too!) that I had been bombarded with and while I knew in my heart that theses weren’t of any importance to me, the experience got in on me. I had the realisation then of how these illusions are interwoven through not only magazines but ads, books, ted talks and more, they are everywhere! Reading these magazines were actually a source or mild suffering to me. So I stopped and brought a book the next time!
My invitation to you this week is to think about this in relation to your own life. Not in a "poor me " there is soooo much suffering in my life dramatic, victim kind of a way but in a recognition that some of your habits or practices may be causing you suffering in some way.
Now I'm not suggesting you change those things, what I'm suggesting is to look with the eyes of awareness and without judgement at your life, the things that you do and see if anything is causing you suffering. Don't change anything as of yet, that will come with time, for now, awareness is enough.
Have a think about the food you consume? The conversations that you have. Or the tv programmes that you watch or the books and magazines you subscribe to, etc. I'd love to hear what you notice so drop me a line if you wish - Ellen@Xhale.ie
Mindfulness teaches us to recognise our suffering, know where it comes from and to transform it into mindfulness, compassion, peace and liberation.
I've recorded a fresh mindfulness formal practice for you this week, you can access it below