Fear Visits

Fear cartoon 1If we have a quantity of fear that we can’t bear to  examine, we cope by busying ourselves to ensure the unwelcome guest of fear does not set up residence in our mind.

We busy ourselves with other “guests” – we turn on the TV that fills our environment with sound and images, we go shopping or open a bottle of wine to drink. We do anything to divert our attention from what is scaring us, which is defined as “repression” or denial, that plays a role in many mental illnesses.

Even if what is on TV isn’t interesting, or if drinking we know it harming us, we think it is still better than going home to ourselves and meeting our inner discomfort or pain. Adopting a non-violent attitude toward our own suffering can help. This is an early form of universal acceptance.

Most of us practice repression to exclude or fear, depression or personal shortcomings. But the difficulty with these emotions is that they seem so powerful we assume we can’t survive them, so we repress them or deny that we have them, until they explode and cause hurt to ourselves and others. Simplified, emotions come, stay for a while, then leave. To understand this is to allow emotions, and their disturbing feelings, to flow through without residing.

Prolonging the “staying” interval of the flow of emotion increases suffering, but if we practice looking deeply, we can uproot the sources of troubling emotions. Through practice with, and observant of our breathing, we gain the awareness in this moment that we can and will survive these powerful emotions, letting them flow through our awareness.

As we begin to experience our own survival of strong emotions, we gain the knowledge that next time they come, we can survive them with less pain.

If we model this calm in the face of fear as a way life in the presence of our loved ones, we are teaching them and others that they can weather their own storms.

Suffering Christmas

Amidst tChristmas present shop cart jpeghe Christian holidays, when attachment to desires and gratification can become inflamed to a fever pitch by advertising, it becomes obvious that Christmas causes as much, or more suffering, as it does joy. We know this, so why do we continue to suffer?

Buddhism, a study of discovery and eliminating suffering, claims a major cause of misery is attachment (desire). Examine, the Buddhist way, why some of us become hyper-agitated, temperamental and succumb to mass advertising this time of year.

Attachment manifests in four areas:

1. Attachment to sensual gratification (feels good, then suffer through craving for more)

2.  Attachment to “I”  ego “mine” (as attachment to self-image, possessions, things associated with “us”  “we” “ours” including people, suffer through loss, decay)

3. Attachment to rigid and unyielding views, beliefs, prejudices (suffer through denial of the truth, being proven wrong)

4. Attachment to a group, ceremony, ritual, shared beliefs (suffer through persecution, competition, power mongering, frustrated ambition)

Though we suffer when our desires are not granted or when our beliefs are proved wrong, and we also suffer again when our desires that are fulfilled then become boring, broken, corrupted, stale, are proved false, evaporate or are stolen – or we suffer when the children run out of batteries Christmas morning (sic)!

If only we could get what we want! But have you ever noticed that when we are actively seeking desired objects that we become agitated?  As proof, ask someone who is buying a new car or a cell phone, both powerful symbols of desire and attachment to self-image, if they are as a calm as when shopping for toilet paper.

But attempts at control through self restraint only increase mental tensions and require enormous energy to maintain. We tire out, the dam of self-suppression breaks, releasing a destructive flood of overindulgence, hedonism and gluttony.

Controlling the mind, like we do in meditation, will help with attachment, and is the start on the path deep to the roots of suffering. Further training and insight into one’s own true nature is required to cut out the roots of attachment, ignorance and aversion, but even small steps are fruitful and very powerful.

“Every journey begins beneath one’s feet” said Lao Tzu. Rather than emphasizing the first step, the author of Taoism regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. And stillness is cultivated through meditation.

Buddhist 7’th Element Taught in Canadian Public Schools

Grade six school kids copyI was surprised to hear a CBC radio program (see Links below) December 1, detailing mindfulness (Pali – the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path) being taught to grade six schoolchildren in Surrey, British Columbia as classroom behaviour control. Connections to Attention Deficit Disorder and drug therapy elimination through mindfulness are highlighted.

The reporter calls it “self regulation” probably because public opinion on teaching Buddhist principles in school would likely start a sectarian argument among parents and taxpayers funding public education. The program teaches children to spot inner tension, engage mindfulness and become calm and productive to enhance their learning.

Here is the CBC radio 27 minute audio link and here is the 5 minute reading time print article link.

Mindfulness is also being taught at my local health clinic to brain injured patients  having trouble conducting their lives. Again, there is no mention in the clinical program that mindfulness is a spiritual or psychological faculty (indriya) that, according to the teaching of the Buddha, is considered to be of great importance in the path to enlightenment.

Whatever it’s called, it’s good to see the medicine and education communities supporting and practicing centuries-old principles!

Link to sample Mindfulness mediation instruction

Peace and abundance to all.