Step one – Accepting that this human life will bring suffering – is pointing us in the direction of truth. Ask yourself what are you avoiding? What are you hiding from? Most human beings are avoiding suffering. Most human beings are hiding from suffering underneath a veneer of coping mechanisms.
This step acknowledges the different types of suffering we can experience. Most commonly the suffering of ageing, sickness and death. We can not avoid any of these truths, we can not hide from these truths either. So we may as well face them gracefully.
How we may ask? We do this with kindly acceptance. Acceptance is in the present moment. When suffering arises; if we can be present with it, if we can face it, if we can welcome it as a good friend, there will be no suffering. Just acceptance of whatever is arising. ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident’ says Arthur Schopenhauer. Sadly many of us are violently opposing it with our addictions, habitual behaviour of blame, self pity and distraction.
The Eight Steps
- Step one: Accepting that this human life will bring suffering
- Step two: Seeing how we can create extra suffering in our lives
- Step three: Embracing impermanence to show us that our suffering can end
- Step four: Being willing to step onto the path of recovery and discover freedom
- Step five: Transforming our speech, actions and livelihood and Mindful awareness of what addiction is
- Step six: Placing positive values at the centre of our lives and Step six: Another look
- Step seven: Making every effort to stay on the path of recovery
- Step eight: Helping others to share the benefits we have gained
Many of us are too impatient. We want to run from the sensation of suffering. And when we do, we create mental suffering. We self medicate. We give ourselves misguided compassion. But in the end this duct taping over suffering peels off and we can spiral down into a deeper pit of suffering.
When we understand that suffering is just a physical sensation and not a mental event, we can begin to liberate ourselves. Once we give suffering form, we give rise to blame, self pity or distraction (which are all aspects of addiction) we give it life, and become a prisoner of our mind.
Suffering is universal, nobody can escape it. It is the first noble truth: ‘The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, unsatisfactoriness). ‘Oh this is so pessimistic’ you may be saying. Beware, you have just gone into hiding, you are avoiding this universal truth. Be aware of what you do after reading this blog. Have awareness of wanting to distract yourself with a stimulant, some food, a drug, or by turning on the tv. I’m not judging this behaviour, just reminding you that no matter how many times you distract yourself from the truth, ageing, sickness and death will haunt you. It’s not going away. So if you want to wake up to the truth. Explore this first step in detail. With vigilance, and patience. You will discover the joys of life, while accepting that nothing will give you everlasting satisfaction. Not even your addiction of choice to help cope with the woes of life.
It’s possible to be free of addictions with out a struggle. When we practice diligently, second by second, moment by moment, it’s possible for disinterest to arise in things that once gripped us in the hell of addiction. We do not always have to identify as the alcoholic, the addict, the gambler or by any other label. We can, if we practice this first step, begin to loosen the bondage of addiction. If you are in the throes of addiction, you are hiding from the truth, the truth of how things really are. You are avoiding seeing things as they really are. We all need to come out of hiding whether addicted or not, and face the truth of this life. We do it with metta (loving kindness), ksanti (patience) and mudita (compassion).
Where there is faith there is no fear. Be well. Here are some questions to help you make friends with the truth.
- How does physical suffering manifest in my life?
- How does psychological suffering manifest in my life?
- How does existential suffering manifest in my life?
- What type of suffering am I hiding from?
- What am I avoiding in my life?
Step one pages 25 to 42.
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