As we try to integrate the Buddha’s teachings into our daily lives, we can reflect on the following questions: Why is life burdensome? And how does life become burdensome? When does it feel like I’m carrying around a mountain of problems? And when does my attention get entangled in thoughts and worries about the past and future? How does that entanglement work? We’re obviously not free from suffering at those moments. You can also consider: When do I start to find relief in my practice? Where do I feel that the practice is working well? Where do I derive joy from the practice?
It seems to me that joy comes when the mind is no longer burdened by old modes of programming, and you find yourself beginning to let go of your former sources of stress and reactivity. This is when the mind becomes truly free and attentive to the way things are. This kind of liberation is not an attainment so much as a relinquishment, an unbinding, a letting go. So contemplate: What am I clinging to? Why can’t I just be free? It’s just this way now. Why am I always getting angry at someone? What’s with the fear? How come I doubt my practice all the time? Why can’t the mind just be silent? What’s going on?
This kind of inward observation can sometimes be interpreted as an obsession with the inner life—or a judgment of it. But it’s neither of these things. Rather, this path of inner inquiry is about noticing why we’re suffering at any given moment. That’s the Four Noble Truths in action… So why am I making this situation into a problem? This kind of honesty and curiosity allows you to begin to awaken to the entanglements of thought, of “self and other,” and of how these things work. And this leads to the ability to attend to these various forms of stress or unsatisfactoriness so we can eventually be free of them. In this way, we assume the role of a contemplative intent on internalizing and actualizing the teachings of the Buddha.
This reflection by Ajahn Viradhammo is from the book, The Contemplative’s Craft, pp. 163-164.