I actually wanted to step back for a moment, back to the First Noble Truth, “There is Suffering” and add something that I read and found interesting, don’t make it personal! You may say “I am suffering”, that is taking ownership of the suffering, refer to it as “there is suffering”, you acknowledge there is a presence of suffering. We are quick to identify with the suffering and it takes away from our observation of suffering. Let yourself witness and understand things as they are.
In putting the Four Noble Truths together, I feel like I am blurring the line between them. So to put it simply, The first is that there is suffering and the second will cover what is causing the suffering. In my reading I find the suffering is coming from attachments. Attachments to being correct, attachments to people, attachments to objects.
..and I know that I wrote above “don’t make it personal” and to be honest, the reason it has taken me two weeks or so to update this page is because I struggled with how to describe the second noble truth. The best way to describe it is:
We are responsible for our own suffering.
Yes, it is the individual who is responsible for their own suffering, it is all in the mind. When I gave the example of me driving behind a slower vehicle, I made it my choice to feel angry. Despite the fact that I work on being patient, I have reinforced 20 or so years of bad behavior behind the wheel, so I need to continuously practice patience. Of course, I do not want everyone reading this to think I am a maniac behind the wheel, just an example, I promise!
and it’s not just about anger, as I showed in the First Noble truth, there are many types of suffering. There is also wanting/craving something. You want or crave that new “phone”, you suffer because you cannot have it, you suffer when you do have it because it does not meet your expectation, you suffer when you lose it. There are other examples you can use along these lines like a love interest? maybe money? Craving ownership of something is suffering.
How about my smoking and drinking friend? We have drifted apart through the years because of his abusive behavior, I quit smoking over 10 years ago and I try to limit my intake of alcohol but I have never discovered why he wants to drown his sorrows. He needs to learn how to better deal with his suffering, especially since his suffering can and has caused suffering for others. I have tried to explain things to him because I was suffering along with him but he would not listen. As much as I advocate helping people and trying to help them on the right path, ultimately it is up to the individual…. Purity of Mind.
I have been practicing and studying Buddhism for less than a year, it takes practice to be mindful of what is going on in your mind. I am not without faults and can still pick up on a situation that gets me angry from time to time. There are times when a line at a department store is slow, if I am not mindful, I discover that that impatient feeling creeps up. What I do when that happens is I accept that I have gotten impatient and remind myself the behavior is not necessary. Same thing when I am behind someone driving slow. I remind myself it is not necessary to become angry. I can slow down or pass them when it is appropriate to do so. When I get flustered at work because I am busy, I accept that I am busy and appreciate it will make the day go quicker.
Your homework is to write down things. When you get angry at the kids, at a friend, when you get frustrated. You can’t change everything overnight but you can start working on getting rid of your suffering. What will it take to learn a new way of handling situations. Practice and be mindful.