Waiting patiently has never been my strong suit. After I laid down the larger viridian circle, I panicked at the tone which to my eyes ground into the neighbouring sap green with the ear-splitting sound of colliding metal. Luckily, I was distracted away before I could “fix” anything and when I returned the wide swath of eye-ache had softened.
The capacity to simply pause or to attend without acting – wu wei – is a tough skill to cultivate. I’m starting to see, however, that it is the heart and soul of the Third Turning of Wheel in practising the Second Noble Truth. To realize the truth of the cause of my suffering requires me to step back from the sensations that drive me to act impetuously. It’s a hypnotic process and I can really feel it in my breath. Well, I can feel that I’m holding my breath as I fall into a desperation to “get it over with.” The Second Noble Truth however is not just a recognition and clarification of what causes and sustains suffering, it is also the first step to the breaking the links of the damaging cycles.
Thich Nhat Hanh says that the Third Turning of the Wheel can be summarized as “When I’m hungry, I eat. When tired, I sleep.” Practice is not just the recognition and knowing of the roots of my suffering but also cultivation of the appropriate response. Hungry -> eat. Tired -> sleep. These are good psychological tactics; we only ever restrain a bad habit but it helps to have a good one to fill the space left behind. I can tell when I’m hungry or when I’m tired… mostly. And usually “cranky” points to hungry or tired anyway.
The tough practice is with the more fine-grained sensations that underlie “disappointment,” “uncertainty,” “loss of faith,” or the Big One, “breakdown of belief systems.” Usually it goes something like “when I’m disappointed, I shut down.” Or it may be “when I’m uncertain, I push your buttons.” Or “when I lose faith, I wipe the hard drive clean.” And this Big One: “When my belief systems breakdown, I want you to fix it.”
Realization of the cause and maintenance of suffering is in the willingness to wait in that space between “I am <fill in the blank>” and “I <fill in the blank>.” But I want to push it further (No! Really?).
Cease the conditional.
“I am disappointed.”
“I am shut down.”
“I am uncertain.”
“I am pushing your buttons.”
“I am losing faith.”
“I am wiping the hard drive clean.”
“I am feeling a breakdown of my belief systems.”
“I am wanting you to fix it.”
“I have laid down a swath of viridian.” “I am walking away.”
Let’s see if that works.
Thank you for practising,