Thursday, 31 December 2009

Using the Tools We Were Given

Suffering occurs. So what tools do we have at our disposal to cope with the situation? As mammals we are also endowed with innate impulses toward generosity, kindness, compassion, and cooperation, which help counteract and at times override the more primal selfish instincts. More significantly, we also have a protruding prefrontal cortex capable of introspection, self-reflection, and mindfulness. Encouraging us to put this organ to work, the Buddha proceeds in our text to say:

He understands thus: “There has arisen in me what is agreeable, there has arisen what is disagreeable, there has arisen what is both agreeable and disagreeable.”

This observation might not sound like much, but it is a huge step. Bringing awareness to the inner life allows light to shine in the darkness. Seeing what arises and passes away in the mind and body each moment allows what we experience to become something known and understood, rather than something shaped entirely by invisible, unconscious conditioning. Such mindfulness provides the necessary prerequisite for the next transformative step pointed to by the Buddha: insight into the nature of phenomena.

- Andrew Olendzki, "In the Blink of an Eye" (Spring 2006)

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