Suffering is not what feels bad and non-suffering is not what feels good. Non-suffering is knowing the actuality of inner and outer experience. This knowing liberates the suffering of false self-narratives and afflictive thoughts and feelings. While known self-narratives may offer comfort, these distorted inner stories prevent us from engaging joyfully and energetically in our lives. Being curious about suffering is the first step toward non-suffering.
Willingness and curiosity are the engines of exploration and awareness is the vehicle of knowing things as they actually are. Though awareness is always available, most of us spend much of our waking moments unaware of here-and-now experience. When we deliberately attend to bodily experience or external objects or even mental contents, and then rest easily, yet firmly in the awareness of the flow of phenomena, cognitive-affective distress and physical agitation decreases.
Sensory consciousnesses (sound, sight, taste, touch, smell) and internal bodily sensing (interoception) provide refuge for an agitated psychophysical system. Awareness opens us to the immediacy of phenomena. As long as the mind remains embodied and vividly present, it is unable to generate narrative interpretations of experience. This means less moments of depressive, anxious, self-hating thoughts and feelings, and more moments of awakened presence.
As afflictive thoughts and emotions fall away, their true nature—impermanent, transparent, mental phenomena—becomes apparent. This can be a shocking experience for a long-suffering psyche. The natural dissolution of something so feared, so loathed, so gripping seems incomprehensible. But actuality is like this: thoughts and emotions arise and pass away on their own; body sensations shift and release naturally. In the groundless ground of ‘just knowing’, self-delusion has nothing to hold on to.
The inner freedom of resting in the mereness of phenomena brings an experiential vividness that is both ordinary and extraordinary. Awakened presence is the immediacy of ‘just knowing’, ‘just feeling’, ‘just being with’. All true insights about the causes of suffering and non-suffering spring forth from the innate luminosity of awareness. The more one chooses to rest the mind in the actuality of awakened presence, the greater intimacy one has with the boundless nature of the mind’s capacity to know.
Purposefully choosing awareness spontaneously potentiates the psyche’s ability to recognize narrative suffering and easily distinguish it from experiential non-suffering. We may learn many painful truths about how we cause or maintain inner and outer suffering; how we cling to unwarranted blame and hatred toward self, others, and our circumstances. Standing in the truth of uncomfortable insights takes courage. Acting upon these insights requires fearlessness and a dedication to wise, compassionate responsiveness.
Mangalam Research Center on June 7, 2015. Lisa's talk starts at 8:22 in the video time sequence.
This dharma talk was delivered at Marin Sangha on May 31, 2015. I was asked to talk about the Buddhist psychology of addiction. The talk covers quite a bit of ground including childhood trauma and its physiological and psychological role in teen/adult addiction. The talk also has instructions for landing in the aliveness of physicality as it is.
Lisa Dale Miller, LMFT, LPCC, SEP, is licensed to practice psychotherapy in California, New York and Oregon. She specializes in treating trauma, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, stress disorders, somatic disorders, and relationship distress. Lisa is an outpatient clinician for the Veterans Administration San Jose and a teacher of Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) for addiction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for depression relapse prevention, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Lisa presents at conferences and trains clinicians in the clinical applications of mindfulness and Buddhist psychology. She is a dharma teacher and has been a yogic and Buddhist meditation practitioner for over four decades. She is also an internationally exhibited visual artist.
Visit Lisa's psychotherapy website lisadalemiller.com
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