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The Heart of Suffering

Most suffering begins in the mind

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Please understand that suffering is anything that ails us from our anxiety and depression to fear, broken societies, diseases, accidents and even the violence in the world.

A feature of suffering in modern society is that most of us think it is something we catch like a cold or suffer like a broken leg, and these things of course do happen. Within Buddhism it is taught that all suffering begins in the mind although that is probably an overestimation as it is actually about 70% of all the suffering that begins inside our own minds. The other 30% is accident and infection.

Let's remember here that we experience the world through our senses and our sense preceptors are all internal. This means that when we touch something we don't actually feel that thing, what we feel is the sensory action inside our own body. When we look at something, what we see is the reflected light from that object on the sensory receptors in and our eyes and it is actually our brain that decides what we are seeing.

If we do not see clearly, it's like if our vision is poor one can mistake the horse in the field for a cow and you will believe that you saw a cow even though it was really a horse. This is a simple example of self delusion, however this works across all our senses. If we hear someone incorrectly, take on board a false idea which can twist our perception and distort our understanding of the world.

The fundamental misunderstanding of who we really are

Typically, we identify ourselves as being this body and this mind, and possibly a soul. But in believing ourselves to be body and mind we are falling for the greatest deception possible. If we really were this body, then we would be born with the body we have now-that has a body of this proportion and condition. But we know that we were born a small baby and over a lifetime we have grown to our present proportions.

Our present body is composed of all the food that we have ever eaten because within this body that we call mine is a creative principal that converts food into energy for use by the body and new cells of the body.

Our physical body is constantly changing, so how can we possibly be this body? Likewise with our minds, they are collections of sensory impressions and learning that we have accumulated over our lifetime and as it is not possible for us to be our body, it is also not possible for us to be our minds.

So who are we?

Most people with some religious sense will say that we are the soul or the spirit that resides within the body. This is a better way of seeing ourselves. This way we can liken our physical body to a computer hardware-that is the case and all the physical stuff that makes up computer, our mind is like the operating system and 'I' is the user.

As a technician can upgrade computer hardware and most computers automatically update their software very regularly, so too we can upgrade our bodies by eating well and exercising. We can upgrade our minds by becoming more conscious of our reality as well as participating in mind games that stimulate the physiological capacity of the mind.

In essence, our body is made up of the same elements that make up planet Earth. Although we have a periodic table with over 100 elements, they can be reduced to the 5 elements: air, earth, fire, water and ether (akash). Everything in the entire universe is made out of these five elements including all the minerals of the periodic table.

In effect this means that we borrow our body from the earth because our body is built of the food we eat which is all grown and made from the earth, this is a simple transfer system and once we're dead, our bodies once more become topsoil.

When we die, what we call as our mind also ceases to exist but there is a part of us which is indestructible and continues to exist. Many religious people anticipate an afterlife in some "Heaven" but this is not the case as the life - the soul or spirit continues and it is up to us as individuals whether or not we live in heaven or hell which is here on earth.

Heaven and hell are actually states of mind although some people seem to like doing their best to make life hellish for other people, but even that action comes from their own ignorance.

Ignorance as a cause of suffering

If we don't know the plant is poison and we eat it, then we suffer the consequences. If we don't know that fire burns and we put our hand into it, then we suffer. If we don't know that eating too much sugar undermines our health and causes conditions like diabetes and we continue to consume it, then we suffer.

If we believe that we are our body then the body becomes the focus of life and a consequence of this is a morbid fear of death. Fear itself of course is a form of suffering and many of us really torture ourselves with our fears of the unknown.

It is through our false knowledge that we mistake who we are and our false beliefs compound these falsehoods into superstitions and irrational fears. These mental constructs initially impact only our minds, but the mind cannot store stress and those stresses are transferred into our bodies where they tighten muscle groups, restrict circulation, reduce the effectiveness of digestion and energy transfer.

All of our chronic diseases, the arthritis, the diabetes, infertility and all those little aches and pains are products of our own out-of-control imagination. As a massage therapists and want to be healers, we need to make some inroads into resolving our own ignorance and suffering, and then we will be in a better position to help others.

The path to end suffering

ram-dasOne must understand that civilisation is an experiment that has gone badly wrong, it is a consequence of suffering and false beliefs over many millennia and yet the path to health and an end to suffering begins right now by realising that we have been suffering so much delusion or false knowledge.

A practical first step is to begin to identify yourself as a soul or spirit who exists independent of body and mind and that body and mind are simply tools to support our existence in this realm. Within Western understanding there is simply body and mind and nothing much else.

Within the understanding of many indigenous cultures, there is the understanding that they belong to the earth and they are part of the earth whereas we delude ourselves that we own the earth.

A second step therefore is to identify one's self as a body and mind belonging and being an integral part of planet Earth. There are in fact many levels of mind which one can classify as memory followed by many levels of higher consciousness, and the body itself because it is part of the earth also has its own memory, however I will come back to that later.

When one is identifies themselves as being part of the earth and part of a natural order, truth speaks more clearly and one becomes more able to respond to life without suffering what civilised life throws at us. By becoming more responsible, we will eat better, take better care of our bodies, we will not be sucked in by false ideologies and false beliefs and as a consequence we will suffer less fear and anxiety.

When we suffer less in our minds, we will also suffer less in our bodies and the best path to follow to achieve what is best described as "self-realisation" is to follow a path of yoga and meditation. Yoga simply means that which unites or brings together. Meditation is about transcending one's every day mind or consciousness.

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