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Meditation & The Four Noble Truths

July 29, 2016


In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, he writes, “The Four Noble Truths are the cream of the Buddha’s teaching.”

What are the Four Noble Truths and what do they have to do with meditation? Well, in a nutshell everything! Incorporating the Four Noble Truths into your meditation practice can and will transform your life. It will allow you to become a witness to deep seated emotions and free yourself from your suffering. As Thich writes, “Our suffering becomes holy when we embrace it and look deeply into it.”

The First Noble Truth is suffering. Happiness is sweet, suffering is bitter. We all suffer to some extent, many times when emotions come up we stifle them, we avoid them, we sweep them under the rug. This avoidance is done in numerous ways… eating too much, drinking too much, turning on the TV, playing video games, working, etc. We will do just about anything to keep the mind busy so that we don’t have to look at our suffering, we find ways to numb the pain.

The First Noble Truth is look at our suffering, to be with it, to recognize it and acknowledge it. To be a witness to the suffering. To be with the emotion or emotions that come up, to sit with it and truely experience it for what it is. The next time you are sad or angry I encourage you to take the time to go to a quite place, sit and really look at the emotion. Be with it. When you do this you are practicing the First Noble Truth and can move on to the Second Noble Truth.

The Second Noble Truth is looking at the origin, the root cause. What material foods have you been ingesting that have caused you to suffer, to cause the emotion(s) to manifest? Looking objectively, as a witness, as an observer we begin to see the underlying truth to our suffering and from there we can then begin to change. If we know the root cause we can then refrain from doing the thing(s) that make us suffer.

Refraining from the things that make us suffer is the Third Noble Truth. The Buddha did not deny the existence of suffering, but he also did not deny the existence of joy and happiness. The Buddha taught his students how to recognize and acknowledge the presence of suffering AND he taught the cessation of suffering. If there is no possibility to refrain from our suffering what is the use of the practice? The Third Truth is that healing IS possible.

Which brings us to The Fourth Noble Truth. The path, a path that leads us to refraining from the things we do that cause us to suffer. This path is called the “Path of Eight Right Practices”. The eight right practices include, Right View, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness and Right Concertration.

The word “right” is translated from the Pali word “samma”. It has a different type of meaning than our English version of “right and wrong”. Right and wrong are usually thought of as moral judgements. Samma is about awareness, discovery. When we look within we discover what is beneficial (right) and what in not (wrong). For example, Right Action is practiced by becoming aware and discovering what actions are benefical and recognizing what actions are nonbenefical, not only to ourselves but also to others.

When practicing the Four Noble Truths in our meditation we begin by looking deeply at our emotions. This reminds me of the bible passage, “though I walk thru the valley of death.” By uncovering our deep seated emotions we are walking thru the valley, it may be difficult to do, yet knowing there is a light on the other side. This transforms our lives, our relationships and allows us to be happy, joyous, content and at peace with ourself and the world.

Interested in learning more about meditation? Contact me for more information, I teach both private as well as group classes.

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