Dharma Topic: Delighting Even in our Suffering

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Dear Still Water Friends,

Last Thursday we talked about a perspective on Karma thatsees it as that which keeps us from being fully present. This week, December16, we will explore a related topic – what is the quality of mind webring to the present moment.

At the Buddhist Psychology conference I attended two weeksago, two psychotherapists (Chris Germer and Paul Fulton) gave presentationsabout the impact of mindfulness on contemporary psychotherapy.

The short answer is "huge." In part, the field isbeing moved by the testimonies of a new generation of psychotherapists whoselives and sufferings were transformed through meditation. However, what isreally transforming the field are the results new mindfulness based treatmentprotocols are getting in controlled scientific studies with patients sufferingfrom significant mental disorders such as borderline personality, paranoidschizophrenia, and clinical depression.

These new therapies, such as Marcia Linehan’s DialecticalBehavioral Therapy, Steven Hayes’s Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and ZendelSegal’s Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, are not teachingmeditation per se, but are teaching patients how to be "mindful" –how to develop their "awareness of present experience with acceptance"(Chris Germer’s formulation of what Mindfulness means to therapists).

In effect, modern psychology is discovering the Buddha’score insight that liberation from suffering begins with noticing our sufferingand noticing how much we want to move away from it. There is in the Buddhistframework (and in these new psychotherapies) a time for mindful action, but itcomes only after some space can be created between the experience and ourautomatic reaction to it.

The new psychotherapies are teaching the patients (and thetherapists) to accept the present moment not only with a calm and nonjudgmentalmind, but with an open heart — to accept even the difficult moments withfriendliness and warmth.

They are teaching what Thich Nhat Hanh has called embracingour feelings:

We should be aware of any feeling which arises. Joyful feelings, feelings of peace and happiness and feelings of pain and suffering. We should be aware of these unpleasant feelings; we should recognize them and embrace them. Recognizing and embracing them will show us their basis. Then we calm this feeling so that it doesn’t destroy us or oppress us.

Without suffering you cannot grow. … Embrace your suffering, and let it reveal to you the way to peace has been experienced.

Rumi, in his poem The Guest House (provided below), goes onestep further, advising us not just to embrace, but to revel in opening even toour suffering and negativity:

The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

During our discussion we will turn this topic to a verypractical concern: During this holiday season, what helps us to open to,embrace, and perhaps even revel in, our difficult feelings and emotions?

You are invited to join us this Thursday for our sitting andour discussion.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner 
Senior Teacher

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a newarrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as anunexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweepyour house 
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honorably. 
He may beclearing you out 
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice. 
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whatevercomes. 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond.

~ Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks