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BiBuddhistRN
08 Jul 11, 12:56
After reading some basic things on Buddhism and almost done with the Dalai Lama's book on the Heart Sutras, I have a question about suffering. I know freedom from sufffering is a sort of state of mind, and adjusting how you are thinking. If someone is clearly suffering with something terrible like cancer (my partner's parents both died when she was young) or have been a sexual trauma survivor like myself, how can I reconcile those things? How can one adjust their mind for something troubling? I don't think I have to think these things are good things in order to go forth. They're really not. I'm going to be sad if someone has a terrible disease, and although I have come a long way, there's nothing good about what happened to me. I've learned some things, but it's mostly just caused me grief.

Understand I'm not asking out of anger. I've just read over and over in my current book about the different kinds of suffering and ways to be liberated, and I'm confused as to how to apply it to these circumstances. I'm not doing a "why do these terrible things happen" because I know that one. I just don't know how to apply principles, or even understand them properly, to these awful unsettling feelings.

Thoughts? I'm open to anything, and correct me on anything if I need to be.

stuka
08 Jul 11, 14:22
Hi BBRN, and welcome to BWB :-)


There is a story of a monk who was dying of cancer, that illustrates rather well what the Buddhadhamma is designed to address. When asked by another monk if he was suffering, he replied, "There is pain."

The word "suffering" is a bit broad, and it is more exact to delineate that there is painful and pleasurable and neutral experience. We tend to react to each in certain ways, and when we do in unskillful ways, we tend to cause misery and suffering for ourselves and others.
agonizing over the injury, "shoots himself with a second arrow". It is that "second arrow" and the tendency to "shoot ourselves" with it that the Buddha's teachings are designed to avoid.

Painful things happen, and will continue to happen, for everyone. The Buddha simply came up with and offered for our consideration a set of tools to deal with what comes in better ways, in ways that help us to not be affected as badly as we would be.

Edit: Oh, and it is simply through mental discipline (through understanding, ethical action, and certain kinds of meditation and contemplation) that one learns to avoid that "second arrow" more and more.

srivijaya
08 Jul 11, 14:25
Hi Bib,
I guess others will have their own take on it but for me it has been a long path. The only release I have learned, is that release I have found within meditation. It slowly seeps out into everyday life but it's no quick fix. With it comes insight into the way our minds work and we can recognize and stop habitual thought patterns early on before they drag us along with them.

I'm not sure to what extent this would help a person in real physical pain but it's helped me out in a few tight spots.
Namaste
Kris

Aloka
08 Jul 11, 15:04
Hi Em,

I can't imagine what kind of sexual trauma you suffered yourself - but I can only sympathise and tell you that I was mentally abused and physically punched and beaten by my father in my early teens, and sexually abused by 2 of his friends -in fact I was raped by one of them. I left home for good when I was still a teenager and life wasn't always so easy aferwards - but I survived, lol !

Buddhist study, contemplation and meditation helped me to pacify the anger I carried around with me - and helped me let go of the past in order to lay those mental demons to rest.

As for physical suffering - most of us have it at some time or another and it's our attitude towards it which can help us tremendously. Also, there's nothing wrong in feeling sympathy and sadness when others are ill and in pain, but neither should we make ourselves unwell in the process.

So gently, gently, one step at a time.... ;D


with kind wishes,

Aloka-Dazzle

Esho
08 Jul 11, 15:05
Hi Bib,

Advices from Dazz, Kris and Stuka are good ones. Now just my 2 cents.

The books of the Dalai Lama and other best sellers, in my personal experience, didn't work. And seems that, again, they are not working. When I first approached Buddhism was with a very good book that gave me a good overall landscape of what were the teachings of the Buddha about and it resonated deeply in me. Being so enthusiastic I get hooked into such books. Mostly Dalai Lama's and Thich's most popular ones. But they were not working and the questions you are addressing were the same I had. I approached Soto Zen tradition and things started to work and after that I started to go into the teachings of the historical Buddha recorded in what is known as the Pali Canon.

The difference from a best seller with a romantic perspective in the Dalai Lama's and Thich's books and the Pali Canon Teachings is really huge. Also to practice meditation with a sanga is very helpful. Dalai Lama's, Thich's and other books are just about their personal ideas developed with their very personal life circumstances which most of the time have really nothing to do with what Buddha taught.

Try to look for a meditation group. If it is under a Buddhist tradition it will be best and try to go into the teachings of the historical Buddha which will give you the precise instructions of what you need to do.


I just don't know how to apply principles, or even understand them properly, to these awful unsettling feelings.


You will never get the "how to apply principles" with Dalai Lama's and others best sellers. It is important to practice meditation and I think you will be started at the knowledge of the "how to" with the link below:

Handbook for Mankind (http://http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books/Bhikkhu_Buddhadasa_Handbook_for_Mankind.pdf) from Bhikkhu Buddhadasa.

The author of the book is a good teacher and you can find other good teachings and teachers in the link below:

What the Buddha Taught (http://http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/)

Most of those teachers and their writings are about the Pali Canon and are to make us clear the instructions that the Buddha left us in his teachings.

;D

stuka
08 Jul 11, 16:24
Kaarine makes a very good point about meditation. I might also add that there are many different practices that fall under the description "meditation", but many are not helpful or relevant in the sense that the BUddha taught it.

A very good book, free on the internet and easily found through a Google search, is "mindfulness in Plain English" by Henepola Gunaratana. Prior to finding this book, I had seen a lot of talk about meditation but nothing that explained what it actually was or was meant to accomplish. Reading MIPE cleared all of that up for me.

Esho
08 Jul 11, 18:53
I have found very usefull Zazen for "garbage in-garbage out" in the famous Stuka's phrase... ;)

Traveller
08 Jul 11, 19:31
I'll second Stuka's recomendation of Mindfulness in Plain English and you might want to add Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness also by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, they are excellent books. While no expert on meditation and I'm still trying to develop concentration I am told that mindfully observing unpleasant thoughts and sensations reduces there impact rather than suppressing them which is what we naturally do.

Aloka
08 Jul 11, 19:42
I'll second Stuka's recomendation of Mindfulness in Plain English .

Although I haven't read it myself, I've seen it recommended elsewhere by a number of different people who've read it.

Esho
08 Jul 11, 19:43
I am told that mindfully observing unpleasant thoughts and sensations reduces there impact rather than suppressing them which is what we naturally do.

Right!

:meditate:

Element
09 Jul 11, 03:31
I know freedom from sufffering is a sort of state of mind, and adjusting how you are thinking. If someone is clearly suffering with something terrible like cancer (my partner's parents both died when she was young), how can I reconcile those things? How can one adjust their mind for something troubling?
Welcome BiBuddhistRN

I personally like to approach Buddhism from the different levels its teaches. Buddhist teachings are on three levels, i.e., the ethical level, the concentration level and the wisdom level.

As cancer is an incurrable inevitable disease, it can only be approached from a wisdom level. As terrible as it is, cancer offers us no choice but to learn to accept it.

Therefore, we can only adjust our thinking by thinking repeatedly (something like): "Aging, sickness & death happen to all; it cannot be otherwise".

So, although our mind is going to feel sad and feel grief, we can reconcile those feelings by repeatedly thinking according to reality: ""Aging, sickness & death happen to all; it cannot be othewise".

In Buddhism, such continuous thinking is called wise reflection. Wise reflection is something 'cultivated'. Cultivation is called 'bhavana'.

The practice is to adjust our thinking over and over again, until the mind develops a sense of acceptance. When the mind has acceptance, it will have a peaceful or accommodative perspective (even though it may still feel sad and feel grief). The mind's feelings will be balanced with wisdom/understanding. The heart will balance with the head.

So some instruction and examples from the Buddhist scriptures are posted below.

Kind regards

Element :hands:


[The Buddha said:]

There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

Which five?

I am subject to aging. Have I gone beyond aging?

I am subject to illness. Have I gone beyond illness?

I am subject to death. Have I gone beyond death?

I will be separated and parted from all that is dear and beloved to me.

I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I will be the heir.

These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

Upajjhatthana Sutta: Subjects for Contemplation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upajjhatthana_Sutta)
"Gone beyond" means to be comfortable with it; not adversely affected by it.

BiBuddhistRN
09 Jul 11, 03:43
Wow. Thank you for all the responses. I wanted you all to know that I am rereading them very carefully, and all the information is a bit overwhelming. But I appreciate all of it and keep it coming if you think of anything else. It's good to know what direction to go in as far as reading goes, and I no longer feel so bad about not getting a lot out of the one book I have. So hang on, and tomorrow I will post my thoughts. I am reading though, and just hearing your responses makes me feel better.

Element
09 Jul 11, 06:11
I know freedom from sufffering is a sort of state of mind, and adjusting how you are thinking. If someone is clearly suffering with something like...have been a sexual trauma survivor like myself, how can I reconcile those things? How can one adjust their mind for something troubling?
Hello again, BiBuddhistRN

Using the framework I mentioned above, in my opinion, trauma can be approached from all levels, that is, the ethical level, the concentration level and the wisdom level.

I personally have found the ethical level works well. I also believe ethical problems should be resolved on the ethical level.

I also like to highlight the ethical level because most contemporary Buddhist teachings focus on the wisdom (non-attachment) level.

In fact, that you have asked about "self and others" places your question on the ethical level.

The Buddha taught being ethical is to not harm oneself or harm another. Developing the ethical level is about cultivating a clear comprehension about what is harmful ('bad') and what is not harmful ('good'). This is called sila bhavana.

Meditation on the ethical level includes cultivating reflection upon our good qualities.

So if others have done harm to us when we were vulnerable, it is a practise to repeatedly think: “I did not harm. I was innocent. I am a good person. I am not a bad person”.

Often this is required because the harmful actions of another, when we were vulnerable, can overwhelm us and cause us to think badly about our self. Our self-esteem can be harmed. It is like the other “infects” or tarnishes our healthy mind with their diseased mind.

Trauma can happen when another imposes their will over us. So I believe, through repeated reflection, one must reduce the will of that person. In fact, must eradicate it and give it no power or authority whatsoever.

At the same time, one must lift up one's own mind, by reflecting upon one's own good qualities & generating a feeling of goodness in one's heart about oneself.

The Buddha taught if we do not discern harm and non-harm clearly, our mind can suffer unnecessarily, when it shouldn't.

Kind regards

Element ;D


[The Buddha said:] "What do you think, Rahula: What is a mirror for?"

"For reflection, sir."

"In the same way, Rahula, bodily actions, verbal actions & mental actions are to be done with repeated reflection.

"Whenever you want to do an action, you should reflect on it: 'This action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others or to both? Would it be an unskillful action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do.

But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any action of that sort is fit for you to do."

"All contemplatives who purify their bodily actions, verbal actions & mental actions, do it through repeated reflection on their bodily actions, verbal actions & mental actions in just this way.

Instructions to Rahula (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.061.than.html)


[The Buddha said:] Those who are ashamed of what they should not be ashamed of and are not ashamed of what they should be ashamed of — upholding false views, they go to states of woe.

Those who imagine evil where there is none and do not see evil where it is — upholding false views, they go to states of woe.

Those who discern the wrong as wrong and the right as right — upholding right views, they go to realms of happiness.

The Dhammapada (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.22.budd.html)

BiBuddhistRN
09 Jul 11, 16:10
Good morning!

I think another problem stemming from these is that I have easily slipped into dysfunctional pattern of thinking and acting based on history. Now that is mine to control. It's not as easy as just saying it of course, especially when you throw bipolar in there. I'm at peace with the fact that I'll always be bipolar and will probably always need medicine to stay out of the hospital and out of psychosis, but once stable, I DO have control over my actions. I'm not used to the control, and so I let things happen that I can stop, with some effort.

I'm also rusty at meditation. I quit trying when I was unstable and it was physically impossible to concentrate on one thing, due to severe mental health. Now that things are better, I need to start trying again. But it's an ovewhelming thought, since I am so out of practice.

Aloka
09 Jul 11, 16:35
Hi Em,

Its possible that this Buddhist meditation series from YouTube might be of some help to you. (also mentioned under 'meditation' in our Study Links.)

The first one is the introduction



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd7a9Ur2x0o#

Traveller
09 Jul 11, 17:59
Hi Em,

As a fellow psych patient (Schizophrenia) I find that the benefits of meditation definitely help with mental health problems, personally I'd start back at the beginning, just doing 10 - 15 minutes until your practice deepens, my meditation practice slipped due to a lot of stress in my life but after a couple of weeks I've got it back up. Remember the thoughts of being overwhelmed by trying to meditate are just forces in your own mind trying to keep you from the Dharma. I'd watch Aloka-D's linked videos, I found them very helpful when they were linked to me on another board when I expressed an interest in meditation.

Element
09 Jul 11, 23:34
I have easily slipped into dysfunctional pattern of thinking and acting based on history. Now that is mine to control. It's not as easy as just saying it of course, especially when you throw bipolar in there.
hello again, BiBuddhistRN

As I posted before, in Buddhism there is the practise of adjusting one's thinking ("wise reflection") in relation to urges/moods/emotions. Important here, is the practise of mindfulness. Mindfulness means to recognise the state of mind arising and its relevance.

For example, if anger arises, mindfulness recognises not only there is anger but the appropriateness of it. For example, if anger arises in my mind about a client at work, mindfulness understands I must be careful to not get angry at the client, othewise I may lose my job. But if anger arises about someone who hurt me in the past, mindfulness understands it is OK to feel that anger (and learn from it) because what that person did was wrong/harmful.

So mindfulness clearly comprehends anger is not appropriate in one situation but is appropriate in another situation.

I personally do not know much about psychology but I have read (briefly) there are psychotherapy techniques designed to manage bipolar symptoms that are similar to Buddhist mindfulness and thought adjustment techniques.

I also found Aloka-D's linked video relevent to this discussion.

Kind regards

Element ;D

jyogini
11 Jul 11, 06:18
Hi B,

I acknowledge that it is challenging to reconcile trauma and illness, yet suffering exists. It is just so. But your experiences (good and bad) have placed you on a spiritual path and I am glad you are here to share your journey with us. You are not alone in your suffering and through the sharing of your story you become part of our stories as well.

From a personal perspective, I can only share what I "know" and, after a most difficult year marked by the loss of a child and a cancer diagnosis, I found myself drawn once again to my daily yoga and meditation practice which has helped tremendously to quiet my mind and focus on the present. And made me question "Why am I clinging to these thoughts? This pain? This trauma?" "Why do I need this?" I was so attached to my own pain! Learning to let go is a process, but nonattachment feels healthier to me these days as I shift my focus outward.

From the perspective of a health practitioner, it is distressing to witness suffering in others. So often patients "become their illness" and I have found some therapeutic value in connecting with patients on a more personal level, trying to support their emotional health and encouraging family connections and support system. Because more than pain itself, I sense that what patients fear the most is that they are or will be alone with their pain.

Anyway, thanks for initiating a thoughful discussion and enjoy the reads recommended by Kaarine and stuka - I think I will check them out myself. Namaste! :hands:

jyogini
11 Jul 11, 06:28
Exactly, Element! Thank you for the moment of clarity I am currently enjoying. :up2:

BiBuddhistRN
12 Jul 11, 20:31
Hey all. Thank you again. I've started reading a few things and it was much more helpful than the books I own. And you are right jyogini....we become attached to our pain. I am like that. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is used in treatment for borderline personality disorder as well as other things (but it was developed specifically for BPD) and I find it utilizes many Buddhist concepts. So I'm working on those videos. They're so very helpful. Right now I am just starting with 5 minutes of meditation. Tiny, but I must take very small steps so as to not get so overwhelmed I want to give up.

Thank you for the thoughts. It's a relief knowing that there is this wealth of information and support.