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Lions Roar : July 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2009 46 SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2009 the unpleasant away. such aversion creates tension that is often more painful than the original sensation. the Buddha referred to this added anguish as the second arrow. the first arrow is the experience of discomfort or pain; the second arrow is the ten- sion, anguish, and unease of our aversion. Bringing awareness to neutral feelings cultivates greater clarity about our experience. in fact, most of our experience is neutral, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. so we spend much of our time seeking intensity of feeling because we fear falling into boredom. through greater awareness of the neutral aspect of experience, we remain present to experience and cultivate greater ease, en- joying the calm of neutrality. Buddhism’s understanding of pure practice is not to add anything extra to the experience. if we bring mindfulness to our feelings, we can experience pure pleasure, untainted by clinging or grasping. But in order to be able to experience pure pleasure, we must be willing to experience pure pain or pure discomfort, free of aversion and resistance. the most pain-avoidant people have the least joy in their lives. in trying to armor ourselves against pain, we numb ourselves to all experience. in opening ourselves to felt experience, we allow our- selves to live life fully, not caught in habitual patterns of reactivity. rather than conditionally reacting to experience, we can choose to respond creatively. the doorway to this freedom is in bringing mindfulness to our feelings before they condition our reactivity. third foundation: mind While practicing asana, mindfulness of the mental formations provides a wonderful opportunity to observe and recognize our mental patterns and how they condition our habitual tenden- cies. the body is not completely symmetrical. in a posture you may find one side easier than the other. noticing how quickly the mind categorizes experience into good and bad can free us from believing these potentially limiting notions. as an old zen saying puts it, “With one thought, heaven and hell are created.” Pain or discomfort often arise during asana practice. much of our discomfort is really just a reaction to novelty, and much of our pain is the pain of change. such pain can provide an opportunity to grow in mindfulness. truly injurious or excessive pain should never be ignored, but the truth is, most of the pain that one expe- riences in asana practice is merely discomfort, and not injurious. With discomfort, it is fruitful to drop out of your aversive reactivity and bring a gently embracing quality of mindfulness to the dis- comfort. When we do this, we see for ourselves that there really is a difference between pain and suffering—the mental anguish that we add to experience because of our aversion. this is an important insight with real benefit to life off the mat. We practice with the discomfort and pain that arise in asana practice so that we can remain free from suffering throughout our life. if we feel discomfort in our shoulders while doing warrior two, all we need do to relieve the pain is to lower our arms. But if we always do this, what will we do with the pain that we cannot avoid? What if you are injured in an accident? or you lose your lover? how will you face your own sickness, old age, and death? embodiment means pain is inevitable. Working with mindfulness of the mind means that when the inevitable losses of life occur, you can just feel the pain, and not add suffering as well. the Buddha encouraged us to notice the mind when libera- tion, or letting go, is present. But first we need to have clarity Kristenjohansen/istocKPhoto