Recently I completed a 10 day fundraising walk in Palestine. Along with delightful nature and lovely connections, there were plenty of difficult moments; the weather went from too wet to too hot; my backpack was too heavy; and the pace too fast. Fortunately practice can quickly turn troubles into resources; any unpleasantness is an invitation to explore our relationship to life and find ways to nourish wellbeing.
I want to share ways we can skilfully relate to suffering which reduce its impact.
When noticing the pushing away of the unpleasant or the reaching out for something different, I prioritised taking a breath and accepting that this is the current happening; “I cannot, in this moment, change the weight of the pack or the weather.”
Accepting this, and the unpleasant mind and body states that arise with it, automatically brings more space to the body and mind. Understanding the dependent nature of dukkha and contraction, means that more space is a relief from dukkha in the moment. This also allows a further shift from reactivity to response; putting the ‘second arrow’ back in the quiver.
With this greater freedom and clarity, we can act wisely and compassionately. I could communicate the need to reduce the pace, or shift my attention to the views unfolding around me, or attune to the intention for the walk. All of these were a support to the heart and mind, and could gently carry me through the challenge, further opening me to more space; a positive dharma-wheel turning.
We can all use our practice to relate to challenges that arise in our lives. The first step is to notice and acknowledge that a difficulty is there. Whether we feel it in the body or in the emotional/mental life we can make that shift from ignorance to acceptance. And take a few moments to simply meet it, without changing it or demanding for it to go.
From acceptance a deeper and more intimate exploration becomes available: Is there a pushing away of experience or a leaning forward as if to skip beyond it? What happens when I bring attention to that sense of pushing & leaning?
As we explore in this way we gain further room in our experience and find more ways to stay steady with it all without identifying. Contraction continues to lessen, and the space opens up. We meet our life in a fresh way, full of possibility. This is freedom.