Dukkha and the End Of Sneezing

February 7, 2013

Dukkha

Remembering the Truth

I have a terrible memory.  Always have, even as a kid.  People who know me in my offline world know I almost always have a pen and small notebook with me so I can write things down that I might want to remember for later.  That’s just one of many tricks I use in my day-to-day life to adjust for my lousy memory.  Generally this truth doesn’t bother me too much since it’s the only way I know things to be.

People who know me in my offline world also know I have pretty bad allergies.  When I finally started getting shots for them, I got eight shots a week for the first eight months.  Thank goodness I didn’t have a problem with needles!  Several years of shots have helped but I still need to take an allergy pill every day.

I recently have become aware that I don’t remember if I have taken my allergy pill.  I try to take it every morning, but by most afternoons I just can’t remember if I actually took it.  I don’t know how long this has been going on but I do know that I have tried to ignore this truth for several months now.  A few weeks ago, after a particularly sniffy day, I gave in to the truth and acknowledged to myself that I need to figure out a way to help myself remember when I’ve taken my pill.  In acknowledging this fact, I had to accept the harder truth that having a bad memory as part of my original software does not prevent me from the typical slow decline of memory as I age.  That pill was harder to swallow.  (If I get to 80, I can’t wait to see what I’m like!  Weeee!)  And so now each time I take my pill I write a small letter for the day of the week on the palm of my hand.  It’s low tech and it works just fine.  Haven’t been sniffy since.

Three of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

This story, while small, is a succinct illustration of the first three of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.  As Sylvia Boorstein describes it:

  1. Dukkha.  Life is challenging.  For everyone.  Our physical bodies, our relationships – all  of our life circumstances – are fragile and subject to change.  We are always accommodating.
  2. Origin of dukkha. The cause of suffering is the mind’s struggle in response to challenge.
  3. Cessation of dukkha.  The end of suffering – a nonstruggling, peaceful mind – is a possibility.

Looking back I am surprised to see just how much I resisted updating the way I go about my day to meet the reality of the situation.  Once I acknowledged the truth of the changing situation – even if I don’t like it – I was able to adapt to the reality on the ground and reduce my (small) suffering.  My suffering wasn’t coming from my increasingly bad memory.  My suffering was coming from my refusal to acknowledge the truth of my increasingly bad memory.

I see this resistance to accepting the realty of things time and again when I talk with folks.  For some reason our minds seem to believe that so long as we refuse to accept something we don’t like, we are able to keep it from being true.  Taking the leap into acceptance is hard, but it really is the first step out from the suffering you might be experiencing.  In other terms, we are talking about the DBT skill of Radical Acceptance.  If this post is something you can relate to, I’d encourage you to read more about Radical Acceptance here.

What Truth are You Resisting?

So ask yourself:  What is a truth in your life right now that is hard to accept?  It might be small.  It might be big.  How do you struggle against this truth?  And, if for a moment you can imagine accepting this unwanted truth for what it is, how might you be able to introduce a little bit of relief into your situation?

The pain might still be there, but we can control how much suffering we experience around the pain.  Or in my situation, I can at least still control how sniffy I want to be.

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