Preparing for the Journey or On It?

อาจารย์ มุนินโท

Preparing for the Journey or On It?

After being hurt in a relationship, some decide never to leave themselves open to such suffering again. They choose a strategy of closing their hearts as a defence, making themselves unavailable for trusting relationships of any kind. It is understandable that we try to protect ourselves from suffering, but in this case the strategy leads to another kind of suffering – that of isolation, loneliness.

Then there are those who work in what we call the caring professions, who fall prey to a kind of emotional burnout because they find they are required to carry more pain than their hearts could bear. Although they might well have started out in the profession as genuinely compassionate and caring, really wanting to make a difference, over time they find they have become cold-hearted and cynical. That is very sad.

Others embark on a spiritual journey after experiencing more hurt than they could handle, hoping to transcend it all. But if they don’t understand ‘transcendence’ in the way the Buddha meant it, after years of discipline and meditation they could find themselves in a narrow cul-de- sac, facing an intimidating wall of denied suffering. If they are fortunate, they’ll eventually realize that the Buddha meant what he said about mindfulness of suffering leading to freedom from suffering.

Our attempts to avoid suffering are definitely not the way. It is no exaggeration to say that the spiritual journey in fact begins when we find ourselves face to face with that which we were trying to escape. Up to that point, we are still only preparing for the journey.

This reflection by Ajahn Munindo is from the book, Alert to the Needs of the Journey, (pdf) pp. 54-55.