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Dukkha as fuel for the transformation of the psyche

by Raymond Sigrist
        The  most productive approach to meditation that I have used involves taking whatever I experience as negative, and employing this “negative” material in meditative exercises. Hence the title of this writing: “Dukkha as fuel for the transformation of the psyche.”
      The best definition I have seen for the Buddhist term “Dukkha” is “unsatisfactoriness.” Let us abbreviate this and refer to Dukkha as “unsat.” 
      Experiences are registered in awareness as being unsat when they make us feel ill at ease, or worse. This feeling probably originates in certain neuro-emotional centers in the brain; perhaps in the amygdala. I think meditation transforms these neuro-emotional centers (NEC) so that they become refractory to those stimuli/events which had formally caused unsat to arise. For example, in the past I may have become quite distressed when my car was hit and damaged. With the transformation of my NEC I now feel little or no distress when such an event transpires.
      My exercise specifically involves noticing whenever I have a dysphoric psycho-visceral feeling and then making a conscious effort to completely feel the depth of the feeling and attempting to remain deeply with that feeling as long as possible. I don’t try to escape the “bad” feeling by trying to “talk it away.”
       For complex reasons, which I cannot begin to explain, this exercise appears to have transformed my NEC such that I experience negative feelings much less then before. The work has greatly reduced the frequency of incidences of my experiencing unsat.  It has resulted in my more often feeling good about life, more often “enjoying” what used to be taken to be negative events, and it has caused positive feelings to arise within me toward nearly everything I am aware of. I am moving toward what the mystic Zhuangzi calls the ability to “embrace all things.”
       To be able to embrace all things would be a rather handy aptitude, for thereafter nothing would cause distress, nothing would result in dukkha. To reach this state would be what the Buddhists call finding “the wish-fulfilling gem.” It is what the daoists call sovereign contentment (zile). With sovereign contentment my contentment no longer depends on the nature of what happens, but exclusively on my ability to process it in an effective manner. 
      And so paradoxically, with this cultivation technique I am using, dukkha is utilized to eliminate dukkha. Finally, just to make sure I don’t mislead some readers, I want to mention that I did not originate this meditative technique. Although little known, it is ancient. It may be what Laozi refers to when he says, “I let myself be sick with sickness (dukkha?) and so now I am no longer sick.”
     Apophatic Mysticism - Raymond's web site

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