We know when we find the middle – there’s a resting, a clarity, there’s an understanding on a very intuitive level and we can just be with things the way they are. Then the tension and conflict eases out, unravels, dissipates.
The more we find that ‘way of being’ (it’s not a static position, it’s a living, responsive, sensitive way of being), the more we begin to recognise it intuitively, and something in us learns and grows in confidence with the experience of that.
Now, even in saying that much, however, it’s easy to grasp the wrong end of the stick, or the view, thinking that if something results in ease then that’s the ‘right way’; or if I’m experiencing pain, then that’s the ‘wrong way.’
It’s not as black and white as that. This particular view is something we can easily get caught in because of the nature of the experience of pain. There’s a fundamental assumption we operate on that says: ‘This is wrong, it shouldn’t be like this, it’s too painful… something must be wrong here.’ Either, ‘I’m wrong’ or, ‘you’re wrong’; ‘I’m bad’ or, ‘you’re bad’. We have a lot of conditioned judgments in reaction to painful feelings. They may be quite obvious to us, or they may be very subtle views that are hard to uncover.
It’s in the nature of any being to move away from pain – to contract, to shrink away, to want to get away from pain. As long as we are not waking up to that conditioned activity, however, we are actually moving away from our opportunity for awakening and freedom from suffering.
Recognising where the pain is, and turning to face it – doing what we can to increase our capacity just to be with it, understand it – is the way to cessation. Cessation is not in moving away from it out of reactivity.
In my own practice I’ve investigated this a lot. What does it take to actually be with painful stuff in a wholesome way? In turning to face the pain we can also experience a lot of other stuff in reaction to it. Fear can come up very powerfully, or rage and anger. Can we be with that?
Even before we get to touch into the primary pain, to really feel into it, we meet these other kinds of barriers – more of Mara’s screens or chimera, trying to deflect us from seeing something. So practice is about increasing the capacity of awareness to settle around that which is uncomfortable or painful, and finding ways to open to and be easeful with that experience, so as we can see and understand it clearly.
For me, this is the only way I really learn, that is, from experience.
This reflection by Ajahn Jitindriya is from the book, Awakening Presence, (pdf) pp. 76-77.