Life is Suffering

Greetings, and welcome to our continuing episodes of mindfulness through Fishing Without Bait. 

Jim:    Fishing without bait is a concept originated and conceived by myself as an issue where an individual could live a life without definitive expectations.  My thoughts are today – and I’m joined by my good friend and producer, co-host, Mr. Mike.  So, Mr. Mike, when someone goes fishing and they put bait on their hook, is there an expectation?

Mike:    Certainly.  There’s an expectation a fish is going to bite the hook and eat the worm.

Jim:    That you’re going to catch fish, right?

Mike:    Yes.

Jim:    Generally, overall, do people describe fishing as a pleasant experience?

Mike:    Generally, I would believe.  

Jim:    So, where generally, do people fish at?

Mike:    The lake.

Jim:    The lake, or somewhere.

Mike:    The stream.  The bubbling brooks.

Jim:    The bubbling brooks.  Somewhere out in nature.  Somewhere away from all the technology, all the chaos, all the sights, sounds and images that continually bombard us every second, is it not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Would you say that many people, particularly in the western culture, have to fish to survive, Mike?  That they’re fishing for their dinner or their family’s survival?

Mike:    In a western culture, certainly not.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, the fishing is more – it’s more of a sport.  It’s more of a hobby.  For many people, it’s relaxation – going out and getting away.  What I’m alluding to is is it that important to catch a fish, Mike?

Mike:    No.  Other than scoring the fish points for the day, I guess.

Jim:    So, if you went out there saying that I have to catch a fifteen (15) inch rainbow trout, and you came home without it, how would the experience have been?

Mike:    You’ll feel defeated.  You didn’t attain your goal.

Jim:    Right.  So, when we set unreasonable expectations on ourselves or on the event, quite often we end up disappointed and frustrated.

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    How does that shape our attitude?  How does that shape our personality?  How does that shape us going forward in our lives?

Mike:    It casts a shadow over it.

Jim:    It does.  It certainly does.  Where the concept of fishing without bait – we’re entering into life with a beginner’s mind; with a bit of openness.  Of course, we’re aiming – we’re going forward.  However, setting it up without definitive expectations we can expect the unexpected.  We can be open to possibilities.  Mike, have you ever sat on a bus, or you were mentioning to me about being on a public transportation – you’re usually on there with a lot of people, are you not?

Mike:    Usually?  Yeah.  Especially if it’s after a Light-Up Night, or during rush hour or something.

Jim:    When people are generally talking – a lot of the conversation that you overhear on the buses or public transportation, mainly in restaurants.  So, what do people often talk about?  Do they talk about how joyous life is?  Do they talk about how wonderful everything is?

Mike:    No.  There’s a lot of what’s going on in the world?  What’s going wrong?  What thing I had to deal with at work today? And, I notice this at the coffee shop as well, right?

Jim:    Yes.  For sure.  In the past couple episodes we’ve talked about mindfulness as it relates to Christianity.  We’ve talked about mindfulness as it relates to Islam.  And, in our next podcast, we’re taking a break from that – we’re going to be talking about mindfulness as it relates to Judaism.  However, if we get back to the Buddha and what he talks about – the first noble truth of the Buddha is that life is suffering.  The original word in Sanskrit, Mike, for suffering is called dukkha.  Let’s break down suffering, or dukkha.  Buddhists break it down into basically three (3) parts: dukkha dukkha – which is a sensation or a feeling that we get from the negative.  Negative physical, negative mental experiences.  And, where the Buddhism – where the mindfulness comes in – not necessarily Buddhism, is that we have a choice of accepting rather than revisiting the suffering and revisiting the pain.  We have a choice.  The second breakdown would be sankharra dukkha which is that the narrative of our mind is to describe experiences.  This is where the voice of suffering comes from, Mike, when we’re having negative experiences.  When we’ve had a negative thought – things have happened.  So, what happens in your mind?  After something really rotten happens to you what happens?  When somebody steps on your foot?  Somebody trips you in line?  You get a flat tire?

Mike:    It just colors your thoughts from then on, right?  Everything you take on the worst-case-scenario in everything that follows.  

Jim:    Yes.  And, then you develop your own little story in your head, don’t you?  

Mike:    Exactly.

Jim:    That plays over and over again.  And, quite often, it can get a little bit embellished, can it not?

Mike:    Certainly.  Everybody’s out to get me.  I hear those stories, like nobody lets me advance.  Nobody lets me do this.  It’s like, no.  No.  Nobody’s out to get you in particular.  The world is not out to get you in particular.  It just feels that way because that’s all you’re perceiving?

Jim:    That’s through your perception.  Absolutely.  What you are doing is that you’re talking yourself into the continuation of negativity.  The third part of the breakdown in Buddhism is viparinama dukkha, which is suffering from pleasant experiences – or supposed pleasant experiences.  Let’s say a person with addiction – to any type of a substance or whatever, they’re deriving some type of pleasure from that, are they not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    However, what is the end-story to that?

Mike:    Usually, it catches up to them?

Jim:    It’s suffering.  So, what they’re doing is they’re getting suffering from normally what they would consider pleasant experiences.  Or, Mike, let’s say – have you ever met anybody that couldn’t bear to live without somebody else?

Mike:    Yeah.

Jim:    Or somebody, maybe a pet or an animal?  And, they’re just – their whole life is wrapped around them.  It is certainly pleasurable when they’re with them, are they?  When I’m with you.  But sometimes, let’s say if you have a lover – if you have a partner.  And, you’re with them, and you enjoy being with them so much.  And, that’s certainly pleasure, is it not?  However, at the same time you’re thinking about when they’re going away.  You’re thinking about when you’re not going to be with them.  Again, it’s the narrative that’s playing in your head.  We’re talking about this narrative, and we’re getting back to mindfulness.

Mike:    Again, so the people that – they’re in a good situation, and they’re just waiting for the other foot to drop, right?  And, running that over.  And, say what happens when this happens?  Which, it will eventually happen – in their heads, right?

Jim:    And, what would one call that, Mike?  But time traveling?

Mike:    Exactly.

Jim:    Time traveling.  Everything that we’ve been talking about the last twenty (20) episodes all interweaves.  It all interconnects.  There’s no disconnect between any of it.  However, remember – pain is a reality in this world.  Suffering has its issues.  And, suffering has causes that can be released through contemplative practices – which is one of the major thoughts of mine as proceeding forward with our mindfulness journey.  Pain stems from your body, Mike.  Suffering grows out of pain.  Can there be suffering without pain?  There’s no chicken and egg thing here.  There’s nothing that came first.  So, what reinforces suffering?  What are some of the things we reinforce suffering with?  We reinforce suffering with worry.  We reinforce suffering with fear.  We reinforce suffering with stress, with insecurity, with greed, and loss.  Being mindful of emotions – quite often what we say, Mike, is when we are able to accurately label and describe fear, worry, stress, insecurity, greed, and loss – then we’re able to have some type of control over it.  And, again, what are we looking at?  What feeds the suffering?  Can we stop the pain?  No.  Can we prevent that moment where the bumblebee stings us?  No.  However, we can certainly have some choice over how to do that.  And, again, we talk a lot about forgiveness don’t we, Mike?

Mike:    Yeah.

Jim:    We talked about forgiveness.  And, another aspect of forgiveness is freeing us from the past.  Think about that for a moment.  Forgiveness frees us from the past.  How would you interpret that, Mike?

Mike:    When you forgive, you’re not going back and thinking about that.  You’re not doing the time traveling.  You’re cut off from it, and you don’t have to worry about it. 

Jim:    You’re freeing.  So, what do we do with the time traveling?  When we’re in the past we bring the pain of that past into the present.  And, when we can truly forgive – not only others, but truly ourselves when we make a choice; again we come back to the choice about whether we can take the power away from those negative thoughts and feelings.  And, again, how do we take away the power?  We label them.  It’s like – have you ever heard anybody on a farm?  I’ve heard this story once where this family had a farm and the child had a pet cow – raised it from a calf.  The father raised this calf and said someday, you know we’re going to slaughter it and we’re going to make food out of it.  And, we’re going to sell the meat and make ourselves a little money.  Do you know what the child did to avoid having the father slaughter the cow he raised?  He gave it a name.  He gave the cow a name.  After he gave the cow a name, it personalized it.  Then, how could his father take that cow’s life once it had a name?  I think that’s a rather poignant story.  There’s a gentleman by the name of Leo Buscaglia – I love this quote.  He says that worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow.  It only saps today of its joy.  Could you talk a little bit about that, Mike?  About sapping today of its joy – worry does.

Mike:    You don’t solve the problems of tomorrow by thinking about it like that.  You only take away the moment.  

Jim:    Here’s where we’re getting at.  And, here’s where the mindfulness aspect comes in.  Remember, we’re talking about the pain and the suffering.  We cannot avoid the pain.  However, suffering is something that we do have control over.  And, we do have a choice.  When we hear that voice inside of us.  When we hear the voice that’s suffering – when we hear that voice talking, giving the narrative, giving perhaps an embellished detail about what happened or what we imagine had happened to us.  Here’s where the mindfulness comes in, Mike.  When we can sit back and we can say whose voice is that?  Sometimes when I hear an angry person speaking, or I hear someone who’s giving the poor mes – I never win anything.  Nothing ever good happens in my life.  I’m too fat.  I’m too stupid. I’m too ugly.  I know I can’t do that.  I know I’ll fail.  Sometimes I’ll stop them right there, Mike, and I’ll say whose voice is that?  My hope is that if there’s any takeaway from today’s conversation it would be: be able to step back and say whose voice is that?  Let’s look at this a little more carefully, Mike.  If we’re stepping back and we’re listening to something – we’re listening to a voice; we’re listening to these thoughts – what does that tell you?  If you can listen to that voice, you’re not that voice.  How can you listen to something that is you?  You’d be one and the same, would you not?  So, what I like to call an inner critic, generally comes from outside circumstances and events, environments, other people – that we either grew up in or that we’ve had some type of traumatic experience from.  What we try to do is help people to separate that.  Can we create that buffer?  And, this is where the mindfulness aspects come in – we can create that buffer between that narrative, between that inner critic, and your true self.  You’re the observer.  That’s where the mindfulness comes in.  When we can do that – when we’re able to listen to that voice non-judgmentally, so what do some people say?  They say I hate that voice.  I want to destroy that voice.  I never want to listen to that voice.  As we often talk about, Mike, what resists persists.  Again, this is such a fascinating subject that I believe that we’ll explore this further in another podcast.  Just touching the surface of truth and suffering and pain.  So, until the next time, I’m joined again by my good friend – my co-host, producer, Mr. Mike.  And, until then, please step back.  Be able to accurately label and describe.  Ask yourself whose voice is that?  Until we meet again, thank you much.  

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