Dear Abhi-Dhamma: The Long Game of Practice

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The Next Buddha is Sangha

Dear Abhi-dhamma,

I have been practicing meditation and studying the Dharma regularly for the last 5 years. I made a lot of very quick progress in my practice as I’ve tried to be dedicated and have been told by teachers I have a very high level of natural samadhi (concentration) which has helped some insights to arise.
In many ways, the dharma has changed who and what I am as a person which I often find too beautiful for words. I live my life with the Dharma at the forefront of my mind (most of the time), have a pretty good level of mindfulness that stays with me all waking hours, and am generally a more compassionate, equanimous, and balanced person than I have ever been. I am very grateful for that.
Something I have begun to see that I view as an issue though is that I do not have much of a desire to be free from the suffering. I do not have this burning motivation to practice to break this cycle – my motivation lies more in the day to day benefits that meditation and the dharma brings me and I’m a little worried my practice may becoming very static because I just don’t have passion for “the long game”. I want it intellectually, but don’t feel the desire in my heart. And I want to feel it badly.
Is this common? Any tips? Should I just be happy with the practice I have and let it unfold? Or should I be actively working on something?

Thank you,
Haroun S.

 

Dear Haroun,

Thanks so much for your question and for your practice.

Your question about being free from suffering points directly to the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. I will first turn it back to you and suggest that you ask yourself what it was that first brought you onto this path? I know for me, I was in the midst of emotional turmoil based on habitual patterns and I figured there must be another way.  Since bringing these practices into my life, the “suffering” which I was habitually finding myself in has since eased, if not eradicated all together, replaced, of course, by other forms of suffering.  Some level of “suffering” brings everyone to these practices and I’m sure this was (and is) the case for you.  In fact, in your question you state that you are a more equanimous and balanced person that would imply that before you were “out of balance”.  In other words, life was inherently unsatisfactory—in other words you were experiencing dukkha-the first Noble Truth! Of course, at the time, you might not have realized this.

The other question for you is what is meant by the “long game”?  Liberation?

I’m sensing in your question, that you’ve found a certain level of peacefulness and concentration through the practices and that the Dharma has brought a good deal to your life.  By this I believe you mean parts of the Eightfold Path—the Fourth Noble Truth.  Do you feel that all suffering has been eradicated? What is your experience of suffering both direct and indirect?  Are you afraid to look into this suffering?  Are you using meditation as an escape or as a process of facing life with a new level of intimacy?  More questions I know, but these are important places of inquiry.

In stating that you “want to feel it badly” realize that just in that statement you are actually expressing a form of suffering?  The suffering caused by the desire to feel other than the way you feel—the second Noble Truth. You are looking for “passion” for the long game.  In other words, you are looking for something that you think is missing? This is another experience of dukkha.

The word “dukkha” is generally translated as “suffering” or “unsatisfactoriness”. One interpretation I love refers to the axel of a wheel being out of alignment.  In other words, dukkha is really being out of balance.

The teachings speak to three types of dukkha:

  • Dukkha-Dukkha—related to physical and mental pain
  • Viparinama –dukkha—the suffering of impermanence
  • Sankhara- Dukkha—suffering related to the conditionality of life.

 

So when the teachings refer to breaking free from the bonds of suffering, through our practice we first learn to understand the suffering from a conceptual place, then from an experiential place and then from an embodied place.

Keep practicing and from the place of samadhi start to fully experience those moments when desire arises in the form of clinging to the way you want things to be or for that which you think is missing?  Fully feel this, notice what happens in the body, notice the stories arising in the mind and then notice when the stories and judgments are not present.  In that moment, you are experiencing the third noble truth—the end of suffering.  There is a momentary acknowledgment that this is the end of suffering—it may only last a second, but that’s enough to keep the momentum going.

Compassion and Equanimity will arise naturally from this place of freedom.  You won’t “be compassionate” you will simply be compassion, the heart will naturally be open and equanimous because there will be no choice.  As the heart begins to open in this way you will experience freedom from suffering and in some way ease the suffering of all beings.

May you be well, happy and peaceful.

Jon Aaron

2017-01-09T10:36:13+00:00