How to Wake Up

Toni Bernhard's "Buddhist-inspired guide to navigating joy and sorrow", How to Wake Up, is like many such books: distractingly, repetitively first-personal. The first few chapters do, however, showcase some well-stated and insightful gems. Three big challenges of life, in nutshells:

With careful, practiced attention, we can become acutely aware of the impermanence of everything in the moment. Seneca, the first-century Roman philosopher, said to count each day as a separate life. To me, this means that every moment is a fresh start. In the previous moment, we may have blamed ourselves for something, but in this moment, we can change that response to one of kindness and compassion toward ourselves. And if we miss that chance, the very next moment offers another fresh opportunity. Every moment holds the possibility of awakening to a feeling of peace and well-being.

Freedom comes from not clinging to any identity at all, whether we think of it as desirable or not. Not becoming attached to identities we perceive as undesirable—depressed person, for example—frees us to think of ourselves as multidimensional, as opposed to being limited to a few painful characteristics. And not becoming attached to identities we perceive as desirable—law professor, for example—frees us from the suffering that will arise when those identities yield, as they inevitably will, to the law of impermanence.

It's important to recognize that "the cessation of dukkha" doesn't mean that we can put an end to life's unpleasant experiences. Bodies get sick and injured and grow old. In our emotional lives, we'll experience the grief of separation and loss. No one gets a pass on the ten thousand sorrows. By "the cessation of dukkha," the Buddha was referring to putting an end to the dissatisfaction we experience with our life however it happens to be at this moment.

Using emotions as an example, dukkha doesn't refer to the mere presence of an unpleasant emotion. It refers to our dissatisfaction with its presence. Dukkha arises when we resist a painful emotion instead of accepting that this is what we're feeling at the moment. Acknowledging the presence of an unpleasant experience is itself a moment of awakening because it's a moment of gracefully engaging our life as it is for us right now.

Metacognitive and enlightening that last is. In other words:

It's ok to feel bad —
  but don't feel bad
    about feeling bad!

More to follow ...

(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-14), Plenty of Time (2009-03-09), Unselfing Again (2009-11-01), Mindfulness for Beginners (2013-07-18), No Me (2016-01-18), Mantra - No Self (2016-10-25), ...) - ^z - 2016-11-11