Through a Jungian Lens

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Creating The Grounds For Suffering

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EightFoldPathAnother beautiful morning in Puerto Morelos, Mexico on the Mayan Riviera. I woke up refreshed after a very good night’s sleep and found that the sky promised a good amount of sunshine for the day. Yes, there would be clouds, but they would be just fleeting visitors and the blue sky and the golden sun would be returned to me. As usual, morning coffee with my wife in the garden watching the small lizards dash too and fro and listening to the rooster with his hens in a neighbouring yard while adding our own voices as we talked of small things for no other reason than to simply be present with each other preceded my morning meditation, au naturel, with the sun anointing my body as though seeking to draw out any trace of suffering. Then, as has become our usual practice, we went for a long, two-hour beach walk followed by a swim in the sea before returning to our private space, our sacred space that we call our home here in Puerto Morelos.

While walking, the thought of the eightfold path came to my mind. Why did it come to my mind? I don’t know, but I sensed that it would be appropriate for me to bring the ideas here as I try to figure it out. First thought was to look again at what exactly is the eightfold path. And as usual, I found it quicker to check out what Wikipedia had to say about it in simple terms before I began to chew on what then would come to mind.

“Birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, distress, and despair are suffering. Not being able to obtain what one wants is also suffering. The arising of craving is the proximate cause of the arising of suffering and the cessation of craving is the proximate cause of the cessation of the suffering. The quality of ignorance is the root cause of the arising of suffering, and the elimination of this quality is the root cause of the cessation of suffering. The way leading to the cessation of suffering is the noble eightfold path.”

Okay, so the fact that life includes suffering is a given. This suffering isn’t necessarily due to being abused, but rather just a simple fact of being a human and being alive. We all get sick or suffer physical pain at some point in our lives, some more so than others. We all are born, a painful experience (primal scream therapy anyone?) for both mother and child. We all die at some point, a painful act for a living organism even if one dies instantly. But, the suffering is more about how we respond to our heads, our minds as we go through life. I have an example of how I have been guilty of just this.

Like most, if not all parents, I worried about my kids, especially when they were teenagers and they went out with the car. As they drove away, tucked way back in some corner of my brain, a “worry corner,” a train of thought began to be formed. As the hours ticked away and it was time for them to be coming home, the worry corner became a bit more activated. When the appointed time of return came and then went, worrying began to kick into overdrive. I created scenario after scenario of accidents and other tragedies. With each passing horror going through my head, I suffered as if these events had really happened. And finally when the kids got home, the fantasies stopped, but the suffering and its affects lingered. I was relieved and I was angry, not for the short bit of time that they were late, but because I had suffered, needlessly. If only I had been able to control my mind, I wouldn’t have suffered, nor would I have transferred that suffering as expressed as anger upon my children. If I had simply just allowed myself to be present and not lost in some mental construct, I might have even found a good measure of peace.

I think I have to come back to this another time.

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Written by Robert G. Longpré

March 20, 2014 at 5:18 pm

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