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Sunday, January 4, 2009

A New Year and the Second Noble Truth

I'm not normally a very negative person, but thank goodness for the end of 2008! Good riddance. I look forward to the next year, knowing that it is going to be very different from the last few in many ways. But I'm ready!

We are two days into our official job layoff and the world is still turning as it always does. I've been thinking a lot about the Second Noble Truth because it certainly applies to our present situation. It is "There is the cause of suffering, which is desire and clinging."

Desire is something we all experience at varying levels during our lifetime...but I think that in the developed world, desire has become out of control and almost obscene. On YouTube there are thousands of videos dedicated to "unboxing". They almost always feature young males opening up their latest games or electronic gadgets, oooh-ing and ah-ing over them. Now, of course, I'm part of this electronic world too...I have a laptop and a cellphone, and I received an iPod for Christmas, so I can't really get too high and mighty :-). But it's almost disturbing to see the level of desire for objects and how quickly we then tire of them and move on to the next.

Beyond "things", there are many other types of desire...the desire for success, for more money, sexual desire...the list goes on. And there is another type of desire that the Buddha describes; the desire to "get rid of", also referred to as aversion, such as trying to escape bad feelings or wanting to get away from someone who annoys you, for example. Some desire is relatively harmless...such as my desire for a Mustang convertible, for instance :-) I'm not making myself sick over it, I don't obsess, and my life isn't ruined because I don't have one! But I remember years ago reading a quote about how humans have a hole in themselves that they are always trying to fill...some of us have more of a problem than others. We are in constant need of things or achievements, or we are haunted by past events or become addicted to a myriad of intoxicants or behaviours.

There are people in my life who seem to have this deep darkness that they are perpetually trying to fill, and it causes me great sadness.

Desire is certainly a cause of suffering, and the other is clinging or grasping; when we want to hang on to something that is impossible to hang on to, or relive an experience over and over, which is also impossible to do. You can't step into the same river twice. Change is inevitable, constant and unavoidable. Change is indifferent, it can be good or bad or neither, but there is no stopping it. And it is the one thing we resist more than anything else, (unless it's "good" change, of course!).

I get up in the morning and see a 51-year-old person in the mirror...how did that happen? My husband gets up and realizes he's no longer going to work at the same place he has been for the last 29 years. How did we get here? I can't hang onto my youth, and he can't go back to his old job. So what do we do?

The first step is to recognize that by desiring and clinging, we cause ourselves suffering. That one step back to get a better view of our circumstances and to see the thoughts that make us miserable, actually makes a difference. When you can see that YOU have created your own suffering, that also means that YOU can end it. It's quite a revelation. It's the end of suffering, which is the Third Noble Truth and the subject of my next blog entry. What a cliffhanger, eh? :-) Take a moment to look clearly at the desire and the clinging in your life that creates your own suffering. I'll join you. Happy New Year!

IJ