The Four Noble Truths are:
1) All life is suffering
2) All suffering is caused by clinging
3) All clinging may be released
4) There is a method by which released may be accomplished
As I sit here and contemplate what I would say about this fourth, many things occur. First, the notion that much of my life of late has been to move through each of these in such a fashion as to lend well to attempting to write about them at all. It seems sometimes a strangeness, but for the assurances of others that this is not uncommon.
Secondly, as I continue to study and research what information is ‘out there’ and allow it to touch me, to sink in, it seems that more and more often, I am oddly giddy for the seeming ease with which the simple act of embrace permits change.
I find myself wondering if the worst or hardest part of the ‘battle to become’ rests in the first three, with the fourth being rather a relief and release… much deserved after the struggles preceding it.
This is not to say (by any stretch of the imagination) that I think myself suddenly freed of it all. but I find that the act of study and grappling with the mental concepts and tracing out their meaning in the context of my life seems to naturally promote the very change that is set forth as this Fourth Noble Truth…. that a method by which it may be released is available… and implicit to this statement, a thing that I can now attest to — it works.
It really works.
Perhaps it is simply that refusing to be less or more than one is in this moment is the key. It somehow seems that in working to pull my hands off of the various things to which I have found myself clinging, and center myself on this, one, moment, now, here… it becomes impossible to enact the processes that result in clinging.
Perhaps it is as humble a thing as insisting upon looking at what is, and not attempting to shape it into what was, or what I would want it to become.
Perhaps it is only when I take the time to practice mindfulness, can these things be more than a distant wish for greater peace.
In many ways, the last five… hm. no. It has now been six years. Ok. The last six years are seen today, in this moment, to have been something of a preparation. Stripped of everything that was given meaning and set to being something of a nomad, I received a very harsh lesson indeed on many things… not the least of which was the difference between ‘wanting’ and ‘needing’.
Interestingly, the lesson was not fully learned until I encountered Buddhism, The Dharma, and this notion of clinging and its being the cause of all suffering. The Second of The Four Noble Truths has resonated here deeply and well and continues to do so. Those ancient words, their meanings, they are things I cannot escape and thankfully, I no longer wish to escape.
Perhaps this is the key… that, because it is possible to see very directly how that clinging created suffering, intensified suffering, supported suffering… it becomes very easy to want to let it go.
Is it not better to be content in this moment than to always look backwards for one that is gone, never to return?
Is it not better to be delighted to have this moment than to ever look ahead for a moment that may never arrive, or (worse yet) arrive after such anticipation of it that it cannot hope to be all I have looked for it to be?
I have had of late many realizations. and they fly at me so quickly that I feel breathless. Things that even short months ago set me into days long agony of conflict to try and release (or find a way not to!!) seem alien. I admit to the thought that perhaps the surface of the waters are easier to navigate in this fashion than the depths, but I am diving quite deep these days, and am thusfar delighted to find that the previous statement seems to be incorrect.
Perhaps I am not truly in ‘the depths’ just yet… but perhaps it doesn’t matter. Maybe that is the ultimate beauty of this process. Here. Now. I don’t have to worry about ‘the depths’ until I find them.
Maybe the foundation that insures and promises and lends hope is that the very nature of turning to refuge is the thing that makes all release possible.
To read the words of those long since passed, and hear them speak of how and why the ‘method’ succeeds is one thing. To find myself surprised by the manner in which things that once lingered and injured and hurt now slip over me, miss me completely, or land and simply have no effect… that is quite another.
I take a moment here to say i am far, far, far from being fully released from the niggling, troublesome aspects of my humanity. There are still many things I grasp with spasming hands… many things which the very idea of loosing them is cringed from and many things that the notion of living without them as dreams or motivating factors seems impossible.
But I do see the possibility. And unlike the moments past, I identify them as things that must be treated… not unlike one might treat a wound or a sickness. I motivate myself to document and consider them… to get close to them and understand their shape and sharpness, to meditate upon why they are important to me, and perhaps through understanding this, find a way to release them and demonstrate to myself that the process of living, learning, and becoming is more realized and more deeply delightful without the cramp of my fingers set into these things.
To understand this is a process, an on-going, life-long effort… is a comfort. It is comforting to sense that all things arrive as they should, and in order for me to learn.
It is comforting to sense that every moment in which I can as much as twitch one of those deeply clenched fingers is a moment in which hope itself resides.
It is comforting to know that so long as I try, so long as I strive, so long as I shelter within the insight and wisdom of it all, these things are not impossible, but merely a matter of time.
Sometimes, I may only manage the smallest of steps… baby steps… but baby steps are still steps and I am learning to be kind to myself and thankful that I am taking steps whatever.
Sometimes, I may only manage to stand still… trembling and fearful and feeling how the freezing in place arrives and struggling with the instinct that would send me bolting from the path into the weeds… but to be still is not to turn and run… and I am learning that it is ok to stand still when such is required; That standing still is not of itself a hindering thing. That, sometimes, to stand still is to give me the space in which to breathe… and to find the moment in the doing.
Most importantly, I am learning to be gentle with myself. It is a curious thing. How much of life is spent being unkind at the expense of learning? I have spent many, many years in such activity.
For the first time in my life, I am permitting myself to make mistakes without punishing myself for them. I am learning how to learn from them, to face them and embrace them rather than shutting myself off… from myself… from others. This too, is a demonstration of how The Four Noble Truths continue to turn every area of life into possibility, potential, and through both – joy.
The lesson of the fourth of The Four Noble Truths is that these things are possible. Not ‘possible’ as in fanciful dreams on some far flung horizon, but possible here, now, in each and every moment. That, my friend, is a deeply beautiful thing.