Wednesday, November 4, 2009

trusting and encouraging

This week most of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teachers I supervise have noticed a similar personal pattern arising in their teaching: a kind of impatience that begins as a subtle desire to want their students to find relief from their suffering. This may seem obvious -- isn't the relief from suffering the reason any of us practice (or teach) meditation in the first place? Isn't it a common condition that we are habitually unhappy with our lives, and wish they were different? And, for those of us who teach meditation, this wish naturally extends to others. If we're on the bodhisattva path, it extends to all beings.

The problem here is that things are not different. In this moment they cannot be different. They're the way they are. Of course we know that in the next moment, they will be different. This is not a theory -- it's more of a guarantee. The problem is that we'd like to control the particular way they'll be different. And this is a recipe for even more suffering.

What is our actual work as human beings? Is it to do all the saving and healing of others ourselves, to give advice about what people should be thinking or feeling or experiencing or doing?

In my own teaching, I can feel this pull of desire for relief of suffering. Thoughts arise: "Wake up already!" "Get over it!" and..., most dangerously, "Here's what you should do!"

But it seems to me that the real work is to simply encourage people to wake up -- to point them in a direction and trust that, eventually, understanding and clarity will arise. Because these qualities appear to be waiting, very patiently, in the form of little embers of awakening, to burst into flame. We encourage, we point, and then we trust.

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