Overcoming the Hindrances of Ill-Will and Aversion
Although regular daily practice and sincerely following of The Eight-Fold Path in one’s life may be the best ways to overcome various hindrances, there may be some additional practical suggestions to consider on the path. We will begin our discussion with common human pain and suffering; we will end the post with skills for dealing more effectively with anger. When we experience suffering in conditions that include other people as causes, we may project our painful experience as anger against them. Blame is the great triangle of hopelessness; if we can blame another person for our suffering, we disavow any need to change our own behaviors (thoughts, words, and actions). Causes of pain lead to pain, but pain does not always need to lead to personal suffering.
Human Pain and Suffering:
We humans are here on earth for many reasons. However, no matter what container you place your experiences into, the experiences tend to fall into three general categories: neutrality/boredom, joy/happiness, and pain/suffering. The next time you experience serious pain and suffering, try talking TO it. If you like “self-talk” better as a description of this process that is fine. Here are some things you could say to yourself.
1) “Pain is inevitable, but suffering does not always have to follow.”
2) “Neither pain nor suffering are new to me. I have experienced them in the past, and I realize they are impermanent.”
3) “To better understand my pain and suffering I need to pay close attention to them. It is MY pain and suffering”
4) “Is it possible that I may be responsible for some of the suffering if not the pain?”
5) “Do I understand the causes of my pain and suffering? Do I understand that I need to treat it gently with love? It is part of me right now.”
6) ” I may need to learn better patience in dealing with my own pain and suffering. These conditions will pass in time.”
7) “What wise-mind skills can I use to prevent the prolongation of my suffering into secondary suffering?”
When Pain and Suffering Lead to Anger:
When we see other people as the causes of our pain and suffering, anger may follow. In making contact with your anger (in thoughts, words, sensations, emotions, and actions), it is wise to utilize vipassana methods to recognize the first conscious arisings of it. If you can connect with the earliest arising before it blooms into unhelpful thoughts, words or actions, you may be in a better position to alter this destructive emotion. See the suggestions noted below. These are practical things to practice every time you become angry. These approaches assume you have enough mindfulness abilities to use awareness with self-calming to counteract emotional dysregulation.
1) Immediately STOP the impulsivity of the anger. Curtail it in the first instance of recognizing it.
2) Loosen your jaw, and breathe deeply and calmly as you count your breaths up to twenty.
3) Work very hard to shift your thoughts to more wholesome or compassionate intentions.
4) Recognize impermanence and wait patiently until your impulsive anger has calmed.
5) Stop blaming other people for your emotional condition. Even if another person does something unkind to you, you are in charge of your emotional responses to their actions. Pain will exist in life, but suffering is not an absolute consequence from it.
6) Say a loving kindness sentence to yourself: may I be peaceful; may I be at ease; May I be safe. You may have to shift to: may she/he be peaceful; may she/he be at ease; may she/he be safe. If in a dyad, wishing good for both of you may help.
7) Focus on gratitude – note anything you possess gratitude for.
8) If appropriate, view the other person as interconnected with you. It may help to view them as one of your parents. If a parent is loving, would you want to harm her/him?
For more information refer to Gunaratana, B. H. (2009). Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English: An Introductory Guide to Deeper States of Meditation. Boston, MA.: Wisdom Publications, pp. 69-84.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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