Stressed, unfulfilled, stuck? Do you have the feeling that there just has to be more to life than the way you are living it today?
Anyone who has had even the slightest introduction to Buddhist teaching is familiar with its starting point: the inescapable truth that existence entails "suffering." This is The First Noble Truth, one of the most central teachings of Buddhism. One of the fundamental teachings behind Buddhism, its ethics, philosophy, practices and community life, is the discovery that freedom and joy are possible in the face of the regular "suffering" of human life.
"Suffering" in this sense is quite different from pain. Suffering refers to conflict, fear, depression, stress, obsession, confusion, mental illness, divorce, trouble with work or the law, unfulfilled creativity, etc...- the basic stuff of life that keeps us from truly living a life we love. Suffering is distinct from pain. Pain is an unavoidable aspect of the natural world. It's physical, biological, and social, woven into our very existence. Suffering is caused by our reaction to the inevitable pain of life. Our personal suffering can include anxiety, depression, fear, confusion, grief, anger, hurt, addiction, jealousy, frustration. But suffering isn't personal. Collective suffering grows from human greed, hatred, ignorance, warfare and racism, isolation and torture, unnecessary world hunger, the destruction of an entire species of animals. This First Noble Truth is what we are asked to take a look at, understand and transform.
The Second Noble Truth describes the cause of suffering: grasping.
The Third Noble Truth offers us a way out, the end of suffering or freedom (Nirvana), and
The Fourth Noble Truth is the path to the end of suffering, or the Middle Way - finding peace where we are in the here and now. By neither grasping or resisting life, we can find awareness and freedom even in the midst of our joys and sorrow. This is how we learn to quiet the mind and see with wisdom.
Meditation facilitates this journey. Reducing the chronic stress of our daily lives and training our minds to find the stillness. Practicing being the "alert witness" to our lives as opposed to simply letting life live us day in and day out. When we make a habit of meditation, we are then able to reconnect and reawaken to our innermost selves and realize freedom.