“The layman Vimalakiru said, “Because the world is sick, I am sick. Because people suffer, I have to suffer” (3 Hahn). One of the biggest things I have learned from Buddhism (and what my mother has taught me) is that the only way to understand your own suffering and to help yourself get past that suffering is to have compassion for those around you. To step into their shoes, to feel what they feel, and understand where they are coming from and why they are acting (and suffering) as they do. It seems that Buddhism, and especially what Thich Nhat Hahn is referring to in this chapter is the great importance of accepting that suffering exists within oneself and within others and to transform it into something more positive: “For forty-five years, the Buddha said, over and over again, “I teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering.” When we recognize and acknowledge our own suffering, the Buddha–which means the Buddha in us–will look at it, discover what has brought it about, and prescribe a course of action that can transform it into peace, joy, and liberation” (3 Hahn). And yet, even when you have this suffering in you, when you have pain, ” you can enjoy the many wonders of life–the beatiful sunset, the smile of a child, the many flowers and trees. Please don’t be imprisoned by your suffering” (Hahn 4).
Thich Nhat Hahn is trying to explain, in his first chapter, how one can enter the heart of the Buddha through the means of embracing your suffering, embracing your desires, your compassion. He says that the Buddha is always there to recieve your suffering and to help you embrace it, learn from it, and grow from it. “The Buddha called suffering a Holy Truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation. Embrace your suffering, and let it reveal to you the way to peace” (Hahn 5).
Only through compassion and understanding will we be able to heal the wounds of the world.
A mindfulness exercise that Thich Nhat Hahn teaches in his book “Peace is Every Step” is about confronting fear (or in this case suffering):
“The first step in dealing with feelings is to recognize each feeling as it arises…The second step is to become one with the feeling. It is best not to say, “Go away, Fear. I don’t like you. You are not me.” It is much more effective to say, “Hello, Fear. How are you today?” (53-54 Hahn).
As I write this post I am aware of my fear for the trip I am about to begin. Fear about the flooding that has taken over Thailand, fear that I will be able to get good photographs, that I will be able to write interesting and meaningful poems, fear that I will run out of money, and fear that Kyle and I will end up not getting along. And so, with this post almost completed, I am going to go sit out on our front porch and do the mindfulness exercise that Thich Nhat Hahn has suggested. When I return, I will comment on this post with my experiences of this exercise.
Here I go!