Turning toward experience

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Apologies for not blogging these past three months, I’ve been at the home of my teacher, Sangharakshita, living in community and taking part in study and retreats for ordained members of the Triratna Buddhist Community.

I’ve been doing a lot of turning towards my direct experience. It has been a challenging practice. When I turn towards my experience, it’s all in the body: just pleasant, unpleasant, neutral (vagueness) or a mixture of all three feeling tone in the body.

Sometimes I like it and I want more, I cling to it, and begin to crave. Sometimes I dislike it and I push it way, and move into aversion. And sometimes, I just move into a vagueness, a boredom because I want an extreme sensation to arise. And then it becomes pleasant or unpleasant, and I habitually begin to oscillate between clinging and pushing away.

I realize how easy it is for me to become a slave of likes and dislikes, of clinging and pushing away.

When I push away I harden with my stories, reactions, judgments or anesthetize with my choice of addiction. When I push away I think I am pushing the people, the incident, the situation that I don’t like away. And when I turn towards my experience I soften, let go of all the stories, and I begin to see clearly that all I am really pushing away, or trying to block out, is the direct experience of pleasure and pain, or vagueness. That is the trigger, nothing more. No person or thing to blame. No buttons pushed.

It can be so hard to sit with my discomfort, and so I move away automatically by blaming someone, or distracting myself with an addiction or fall into self pity. It’s sometimes seems easier to sit with pleasant sensations, and then I cling to it, and become frustrated when it changes to unpleasant, and then I push it away. Nobody is pushing my buttons, I push my own buttons.

All this is a salient reminder that during the Christmas and New year holidays that if we experience aversion to someone overdoing it with alcohol, drugs, or food, or an aversion to all the consumerism, that our aversion is a strong reaction to not wanting to experience what is going on in the body.

If I feel a strong craving for foods that I don’t normally eat, or to alcohol that I don’t drink, it’s a reminder that I am turning away from the discomfort that has arisen in the body when one of the six senses clashes with the smell and sights of these stimuli.

It can be excruciatingly painful to stay with what is arising in the body, which is why we turn away with our reactions of blame, distraction and self pity. The Buddha taught there are worldly responses to feeling tone and unworldly responses to feeling tone.

Lust, anger, delusion, contraction, and distraction are our worldly habitual responses to feeling tone arising in the body. They inevitably lead to suffering. If we want freedom we have to learn to turn towards whatever is arising with a great expansive and relaxed mind, that is unworldly, unsurpassable, concentrated, and liberated. This will free us from the chains of our six senses that drag us down into a deluded pit.

More next month – be well

New Revised Edition of Detox Your Heart – Meditations on Emotional Trauma published by Wisdom Books Spring 2017

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