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Buddha wisdom for the wilderness — Day 21 of 40 Days of Listening

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

First, life is suffering — dukkha. Not only do we age and eventually die, we experience pain and unsatisfied desires…

Second, there is a cause (samudaya) of suffering — it is our attachment or craving to something other than what is…

Third, there is an end or cessation (nirodha) of suffering…

Fourth, the way or path (magga) — the Noble Eightfold Path* — is the means to end this suffering.

* The Eightfold Path is a set of practices, as taught by the Buddha, that liberate one from suffering and lead to awakening. They shape one’s ethics, grow one’s capacity for self-restraint and compassion, and teach one mindfulness and concentration.

This is a very basic description, and these Buddhist teachings are worth exploring if you have not before. They also resonate with pathways and teachings from other traditions, spiritual and otherwise. For those from a Judeo-Christian background, consider exploring Thich Nhat Hanh’s work “Living Buddha, Living Christ.”

In order to wander this wilderness well, it seems necessary to mindfully deal with how we deal with suffering.

Indeed, suffering is part of life. And it seems we’re facing this truth on a grander scale as the majority of our species is impacted by pandemic.

It’s our aversion to suffering, and attachment to desires or comforts, that make us suffer all the more. We become like hamsters on the wheel trying to run from any pain or discomfort or lack, but all our effort simply adds to our suffering.

Maybe, for the sake of the wilderness metaphor, it’s like walking for miles and miles — in circles. And to make it worse, you keep stubbing your toe on the same damn rock over and over again…

So, how do we do suffering well?

It begins with acceptance. Suffering is simply a part of life. We can learn to be with it — to experience it for what it is without adding to it by trying to avoid or fight it.

What is it you’re struggling with? Where are you experiencing suffering?

There is power in naming it.

I’m struggling to be a stay-at-home parent/kindergarten teacher/toddler entertainer/working from home when I can sneak it in/caring partner. And on top of that, it rained, ALL DAY!

I lost my job already. I’m not sure when I’ll get my first unemployment check, and I’m anxious about what happens after this is over.

I’m one of the folks who are high risk, and I’m scared.

I’m a senior in high school, and I’m not sure if I’ll be with my classmates together at school again.

My retirement savings have been decimated.

I don’t have a home to quarantine myself in or a pantry to stock. I’m in a shelter, one I can’t stay in all day, and I’m surrounded by people. This is hard.

I’m sick. My body hurts. I don’t want to expose others. And I don’t want to die…

These are the stories and experiences that are going on in my mind and body.
Breathe in, and breathe out.
I am aware of these stories and experiences.
I accept them as they are.

There is also power in together. Naming these stories and experiences of suffering with a person who is close to us can grow understanding and empathy. Share with a friend over the phone, or with your partner, or with someone sharing the same living space — including children.

These are the stories and experiences that are going on in my mind and body.
Breathe in, and breathe out.
Be heard.
I hear that you are aware of these stories and experiences.
I hear that you are accepting them as they are.

Growing our awareness and acceptance of what is, we can begin to free ourselves from additional and unnecessary suffering. We can learn and continue practicing a way of being human marked by compassion, mindfulness and wisdom.

Maybe this wilderness and the suffering it contains could become for us a pathway to collective awakening. Let’s make it so by supporting one another in spiritual growth through listening and care.

Entering the Wilderness Together (Digital Gathering)
Sunday, March 22 @ 10 am

As we enter this wilderness of pandemic — a space of great suffering and great potential — we get to help one another journey well. Let’s gather, digitally, for music and poetry, stories and meditation. We’ll also make room to check in and hear one another’s struggles and discoveries.

We’ll meet via Zoom. A link and instructions will be shared via email as well as Meetup and Facebook as we get closer to Sunday.

Intertwine is a spiritual community of practice. That is just what is needed in times like these. Let’s be supportive, creative, compassionate community for one another.



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