Likewise a situation or person may present the potential for suffering. But it is up to me whether that potential becomes a reality or whether I remain at peace and happy regardless.
If it’s not the actual experience, then what makes the difference between whether we experience joy or suffering? How do we abide in that psychic space? The answer is whether, or the extent to which, we have freed ourselves from the control of our ego-mind … it’s emotions, judgments, cravings, attachments … and connected instead with our true self, our unwounded heart. Whether we have freed ourselves from negative energy and replaced it with positive energy.
This is the core of the Four Noble Truths with which the Buddha started turning the wheel of the dharma. He said the cause of our suffering is our craving … which was short-hand for all the feelings and perceptions of the ego-mind. Our suffering is not directly caused by what we experience. Indirectly, of course, but not directly. Our ego-mind is the intervening direct factor.
The reason why most people don’t make much progress on the path is because this fundamental truth is not acceptable to them. They will not let go their grievances, their anger, their fear, against what the world has done to them … whether it was their parents, siblings, peers, or our culture.
They identify so strongly with that righteous anger, with the overwhelming fear. It is how the ego-mind sets up a defense to what happened. “How is fear a defense?” the reader might ask. The ego is saying, “Don’t get in that situation again!” But the defense actually heightens the pain/hurt of the experience to psychic suffering which stays with us for our entire life. (See my post, “The Distinction between Pain and Suffering.”) And which in the one case impairs our judgment and in the other surrounds us with doubt and immobilizes us.
Until … we come to realize that these emotions are a product of the ego-mind, they are not a product of our true self. AND we understand that it is these emotions that are actually the direct cause of our suffering. That awareness gives us the ability to choose. Do we continue to follow our habitual ego-mind-driven reactions to life and suffer? Or do we seek guidance from our heart and experience peace and joy while being fully cognizant of the ills of the world and our experience.
But how do we seek the guidance of our heart? We must globally replace our negative ego-mind habit-energy with the positive energy of our heart. We must disassociate ourselves from our ego-mind.
And we do this, as a monk once taught me, by surrendering our ego to our true Buddha self. Or as I prefer to put it, by turning our will and our life over to the care of our true Buddha nature. (See my post, “Turning Your Will Over to Your True Buddha Nature.”)
And how do we implement that? By asking our true Buddha nature to open our heart to embrace all aspects of our being and experience … past, present, and future. (See my post, “The Heart’s Embrace.”) Then nothing offends, mental obstructions cease to be. We experience things directly, with dispassion, knowing that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is. Our mind then rests undisturbed, all internal and external struggles cease to be. At this point, regardless what life throws our way, we will be at peace and happy, we will experience our inner joy, because we have freed ourselves from the control of our ego-mind.
But beware … the ego-mind will have none of this; its interests are not your best interests. So do not try to use your mind to do any of this. You must come at these efforts through your heart, through your true Buddha self. Only your unwounded heart, your true Buddha self, will answer the call to free you from your suffering. (See my post, “How to See through the Eyes of Your True Buddha Self, Your Unwounded Heart.”)
To spend as much of the day as possible in this psychic space, I encourage you to establish a daily meditation practice which will help you stay grounded, present, in contact with your true Buddha self, free of the intervention of your ego-mind, and so able to practice the Six Paramitas. This is taking refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha … in your true Buddha self. This is being there for yourself, because only you have the power to free yourself.
This is the implementation of the Fourfold Path to Freedom:
Understanding that all things are impermanent and changeable.
Understanding that all our perceptions have no inherent nature, they are just a product of our mind, and that they are the direct cause of our suffering.
Practicing the Six Paramitas.
Surrendering our ego to our true Buddha nature, turning our will and our lives over to the care of our true Buddha nature.