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The Solution to Suffering

By Andrew Schneider

The solution to suffering is to let go of desire and practice detachment. This is the implication in the third Noble Truth which is called nirodha, meaning containment or confinement. One of the key understandings of this fact of life is that the challenges of life cannot be avoided, and that we let go of desire by facing our challenges with nobility, respect, dignity, openness to learning and receptivity to expansion.

The energies and feelings that arise within us are forms of fire. We need to control that fire so that it does not get out of control and destroy us or others. We need to use it as a spiritual force. We need to harness the energy and consciously direct it to support the expression of our dream. The fire of our feelings is no different than the fire of transformation. In fact, the fire of our feelings is the fire of transformation; it is just manifesting on a level of effect rather than a level of cause from which transformational energies originate.

Injustice, cruelty, wars, oppression and the like are caused by the reactionary feelings not being controlled. These fires are released in destructive ways rather than used to fulfill the dreams of well-being and wholeness that exist in the soul of every human being. Without controlling these reactions their fire becomes an instrument of the wounds and fears of the unconscious.

Manifesting our dreams as part of the spiritual journey requires us to channel the energies available to us rather than trying to eliminate what we might consider to be obstructive or negative energies. The friction that arises from our obstacles and challenges, which often are the bases for our suffering, are essential to the evolution of consciousness. Consciousness only expands through the tensions of life that motivate us to reach deeper and higher, resulting in expansion.

When the feelings that arise within us in reaction to the challenges or afflictions we encounter are not 'contained,' we will likely adopt compensatory behaviour. In other words, if we experience that which we do not like, we will automatically seek to balance it, or remove it, with something pleasurable. This avoidance is usually the basis for greed and pleasure seeking, which could be a clue to us as to the need we are avoiding.

If we do not 'contain' the feeling of loss that we frequently experience when faced with affliction, we typically go through denial first, then anger, then blame. These are all clues to a need that we are not recognizing. We want to have different experiences, a different life. To blame others, or to blame oneself, does not get us to the realization that our life is created through the choices we make. And the choices are conditioned by the freedom we exercise in facing our reality rather than running away from it or denying it.

If we do not 'contain' the reactions to our affliction we might seek oblivion. Oblivion is an escape from the hard realities of life. It is an avoidance of responsibility, and a deviation from the path. Oblivion is easily seen when induced by drugs, alcohol, food or overwork. It is less recognized when it is couched in the language and practice of the spiritual journey. Nirvana, bliss, meditation, etc. can all be means of escape. When they are, they are not at all spiritual - i.e., they do not contain the transformative soul energies; Spirit is absent.

We don't have to give up the desire we have, but instead let go of the object toward which the desire is directed. When we let go of the object (often some thing or action of escape) we still have the energy with which to work. This way we can look more clearly at what we are trying to escape from. When we fulfill the desire, the energy dissipates temporarily, but there is no change within. As soon as we are going after something pleasing we need to ask ourselves if we are trying to escape from some suffering or challenge.

We do not want to make the object of our desire something toward which we then have an aversion. For then it will still control us, and the desire will create further conflict. We want to be sufficiently free to choose so that instead of the desire being a compulsion it gets transformed into a choice we can call a preference. Preferences do not control, nor create problems when what is preferred is not at hand. Frequently our happiness is dependent upon the fulfilment of desires. Preferences do not have this controlling grip on us.

When we let go of attachments we can experience Nirvana. Nirvana is not a far off heaven, or a state of enlightenment that few can reach, but a clear mental state, infused with the understanding, power and love of soul, that enables one to control and direct the fires of the personality to support soul expression and its dream.

Exercises:
1. What are you attached to that causes you suffering or restricts you in some way?
2. At least once a day when you feel a desire, do not automatically reach for your typical object of desire. Instead, stay with the energy and see what you are trying to escape from. Then deal with making some constructive changes in that part of your life.

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