[HealthDharma] Turning Suffering Inside Out, chapter four, part one

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  • Kokuu
    Treeleaf Priest
    • Nov 2012
    • 6755

    [HealthDharma] Turning Suffering Inside Out, chapter four, part one

    This section of the reading comprises pages 50 to 62 (from the beginning of the chapter to ‘Not Knowing Mind’)

    Darlene begins this chapter talking about how some people can seemingly control their life so that their connection with suffering is limited. Sometimes they will deliberately choose to isolate themselves from it. This is not something that those of us with chronic illness are able to do, but Darlene suggests that, although suffering is unpleasant, it is part of life, and any attempt to micromanage our existence to minimise pain will always end in failure and, even when it is ‘working’ will only permit exposure to a narrow range of what life has to offer. In avoiding contact with suffering we also avoid the very human pleasures of helping and being helped – the very acts which build friendships and community.

    She goes on to point on that clearly having some control on our lives is important, as feeling a loss of control can be stressful. The trick, as Buddha taught Sona the lute player, is ‘not too tight, not too loose’. If we control too much, we can panic at when things don’t go to plan; if we control too little, the lack of structure will cause unnecessary difficulties. Darlene relays a quote from a student on a stress-participation workshop that she learned to “take care of what needs to be taken care of, allow what needs to arise by itself, and know the difference.” Do we know the difference? This is where practice comes in, but I have personally found that, for myself, I often try to control far more than is actually required. Others may have a different experience.

    Darlene notes that trying to exercise control can often be a way of avoiding experiencing uncomfortable sensations and, to be honest, who wants to experience those? However, the likelihood is that this strategy can only ever work for a certain amount of time and can be counterproductive. Experiencing the discomfort allows us to work with it, or for it to be included in our awareness rather than expending energy keeping it at bay through busyness or some other strategy. I know myself that tightness in my muscles can be partially alleviated by using those muscles, but the eventual payback is much worse than if I had just experienced the initial tightness.

    This section includes examples, both about Darlene herself, and others, of putting themselves in a holding pattern in order to keep discomfort at bay, only to eventually succumb to the stress of doing so. Sometimes it may be necessary to get through a difficult period, such as moving house when sick, but at other times we may do it out of habit or reactivity. The thing we don’t want to experience may feel too big to handle so we do not even start to work with it, and by choosing not to do so over a period of time, its complexity and undesirability may grow even greater in our mind.

    Darlene talks about being overwhelmed with a week’s worth of mail to handle, however, by sitting down and sorting it into piles of ‘handle immediately’, ‘handle at some point’ and ‘junk’ she was able to make it manageable. When we feel overwhelmed by something, there is almost always a way of breaking the problem down into smaller parts and gradually work with it. In this, she uses the example of a friend of hers whose car had been hit by another driver. Her friend initially resisted all suggestions to engage with a lawyer to see if she had a case against the other driver but eventually saw that she could just do each task that was required for as long as it was needed, and then put that down and move onto the next one. For us too, instead of contemplating a whole problem, what if we can just think in terms of ‘what next?’ and do that?

    She also talks about a businesswoman who feels it necessary to ‘rev her engine’ in order to do work but then feeling exhausted at the end of the day. She felt that without this she would not have the energy to deal with what needed to be done. If we can learn to trust our own sense of letting things happen as they need to, our own natural wisdom and energy can come forward. Allowing this to happen seems to me to be part of Zazen but it can be hard to relinquish control to the parts of our mind that feel that things will go wrong unless we micromanage our life.

    Darlene quotes Shunryu Suzuki in saying that to control a sheep or cow it is best to give them a large, spacious field so that they have the space to come and go without feeling restricted. We can do similarly with our lives and thoughts.


    Question prompts:

    1. How much do you feel you try to control your life? Do you notice yourself trying to impose control rather than experience unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations?

    2. How much do you trust your ability just to let things happen on their own terms? Has Zazen helped with that?

    3. Can you think of a time where either trying to intensely control a situation hasn’t worked out well, or where giving up control has improved things? (or both if you wish!)


    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
  • Alina
    Member
    • Jul 2023
    • 143

    #2
    Thank you Kokuu.

    1. How much do you feel you try to control your life? Do you notice yourself trying to impose control rather than experience unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations?
    Too much, and yes, 100%. Trying to control everything is a big issue for me, a coping mechanism learned early, and it is so so scary to let go of it... Zazen helps, but my progress is slow in this department.

    2. How much do you trust your ability just to let things happen on their own terms? Has Zazen helped with that?
    My problem with "let things happen on their own terms" is that they don't happen at all, this is something I've experienced many times, if I am not in charge, if I don't push for it, it does not happen, no one takes care of it, etc. It is very frustrating, and it does not help me relax even a bit, which then becomes another source of stress.

    3. Can you think of a time where either trying to intensely control a situation hasn’t worked out well, or where giving up control has improved things? (or both if you wish!)
    There are things that I've learned to "not do" anymore, I used to feel like I had to, but after reaching of point of exhaustion, I simply stopped doing them and the world did not end. Who would have thought?! That was what made me realize that I had a control-freak problem.

    I tend to be the "rev-up" kind of person, and reading this made me think of how difficult it is to deal with those that tend to avoid conflict, that tend to not do nothing out of fear. How hard it is to depend on them, and how hard it probably is for them to have to deal with me.


    Gassho

    Alina
    ST+LAH

    Comment

    • Kaitan
      Member
      • Mar 2023
      • 446

      #3
      1. How much do you feel you try to control your life? Do you notice yourself trying to impose control rather than experience unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations?

      I actually feel other way Darlene describes. Being a procrastinator I tend to avoid difficult situations making them more complex than they are to avoid the struggle. This is what she calles to be 'undone before we start', it's very relatable, lack of control that ends in exhaustion without investing effort wisely in engaging with the situation. It is still incredible how much energy is vanished by avoiding engaging with life (which I thought it was the mindless and uncontrollable effort), seems more simple and easy to escape and numb oneself.

      2. How much do you trust your ability just to let things happen on their own terms? Has Zazen helped with that?

      Definitely, it has helped me to see that all situations are temporary, whereas before they felt more permanent.

      3. Can you think of a time where either trying to intensely control a situation hasn’t worked out well, or where giving up control has improved things? (or both if you wish!)

      Well recently with the the injury with knee I've noticed that making too much effort to control caused the other knee get injured, it was a painful lesson that I didn't contemplate. Letting the knee feel a bit of pain is not so bad and actually is encouraged because this is an active recovery. Same goes with using belts around the knee, it's important to teach it to walk confident again.

      As I mentioned before, the procrastination leads me more to avoiding rather than doing compulsive effort to get things done. But they seem to be two sides of the same coin because sooner or later the compulsive and mindless effort takes over and adds more to the avoidance of difficult situations without noticing the core reason. Great reading this chapter, it felt very relatable to my life, thank you, Kokuu

      Gasshō

      stlah, Kaitan
      Last edited by Kaitan; 04-10-2024, 05:32 AM.
      Kaitan - 界探 - Realm searcher
      Formerly known as "Bernal"

      Comment

      • Kokuu
        Treeleaf Priest
        • Nov 2012
        • 6755

        #4
        Trying to control everything is a big issue for me, a coping mechanism learned early, and it is so so scary to let go of it... Zazen helps, but my progress is slow in this department.

        My problem with "let things happen on their own terms" is that they don't happen at all, this is something I've experienced many times, if I am not in charge, if I don't push for it, it does not happen, no one takes care of it, etc. It is very frustrating, and it does not help me relax even a bit, which then becomes another source of stress.
        I can understand that and have experienced similar with my children in letting things happen on their own terms and finding they don't get done! So, yes, I can appreciate that is a source of stress.


        There are things that I've learned to "not do" anymore, I used to feel like I had to, but after reaching of point of exhaustion, I simply stopped doing them and the world did not end. Who would have thought?! That was what made me realize that I had a control-freak problem.
        Yes, absolutely! It is a good lesson. There are definitely things we need to make sure get done but also things we can let go.


        I tend to be the "rev-up" kind of person, and reading this made me think of how difficult it is to deal with those that tend to avoid conflict, that tend to not do nothing out of fear. How hard it is to depend on them, and how hard it probably is for them to have to deal with me.
        That can certainly be difficult when a person who likes everything to get done meets someone who is rather more lax in that area, and/or is conflict-avoidant or frozen in place (so to speak). I guess it is a question of finding ways to meet them where they are, but that is certainly not easy, and even more so if you are running on limited energy.

        Thank you for your thoughts on this, Alina. They are greatly appreciated

        Comment

        • Kokuu
          Treeleaf Priest
          • Nov 2012
          • 6755

          #5
          I actually feel other way Darlene describes. Being a procrastinator I tend to avoid difficult situations making them more complex than they are to avoid the struggle. This is what she calles to be 'undone before we start', it's very relatable, lack of control that ends in exhaustion without investing effort wisely in engaging with the situation. It is still incredible how much energy is vanished by avoiding engaging with life (which I thought it was the mindless and uncontrollable effort), seems more simple and easy to escape and numb oneself.
          Yes, I have noticed this too. Previously I avoided looking at financial statements from my bank and got into some kinds of difficulties which would have been easily dealt with had I kept up with the situation. Finances still stress me but avoiding them does not stop this and can make it much worse in the end. So, like you say, investing wisely in engaging with the situation is a good thing (do you have a similar expression in Spanish to the English "a stitch in time, saves nine" i.e. if we mend something when we first notice a tear it saves having to make a much larger repair job later on?). Numbing out seems like a good idea at the time but we have to face things eventually.


          Well recently with the the injury with knee I've noticed that making too much effort to control caused the other knee get injured, it was a painful lesson that I didn't contemplate. Letting the knee feel a bit of pain is not so bad and actually is encouraged because this is an active recovery. Same goes with using belts around the knee, it's important to teach it to walk confident again.

          As I mentioned before, the procrastination leads me more to avoiding rather than doing compulsive effort to get things done. But they seem to be two sides of the same coin because sooner or later the compulsive and mindless effort takes over and adds more to the avoidance of difficult situations without noticing the core reason. Great reading this chapter, it felt very relatable to my life
          Good example, although I can imagine in that instance you were just trying to protect the knee and it was more of an unintended consequence but definitely when we try to protect one area it can cause the stress to go elsewhere (and I mean this both physically and mentally/emotionally).

          Really glad this chapter was helpful. Darlene writes so well and from experience. I really appreciate your sincere engagement with the material

          Comment

          • Tairin
            Member
            • Feb 2016
            • 2731

            #6
            Thank you Kokuu

            Since I answered the second half of chapter 4 there is some repetition in the questions that I won’t repeat here.

            2. How much do you trust your ability just to let things happen on their own terms? Has Zazen helped with that?

            Somewhat. What I’ve learned is that the stress of trying to control things isn’t generally worth the effort. Rather than try to control every little aspect learn to let somethings just proceed as they will. Focus on the bigger picture rather than micromanaging.

            Definitely Zazen and this practice has helped that. Being a member of this Sangha is a big part too. Checking in with the discussions here very much helps me remember to not sweat the little things.


            Tairin
            Sat today and lah
            泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

            Comment

            • Shonin Risa Bear
              Member
              • Apr 2019
              • 921

              #7
              I would observe that retirement helped me to learn to go with the flow. A service person hits a snag and says, "Oh, dear, this is going to take a little longer." That's fine, I reply. It's not like I'm going anywhere. Having the rollator with me seems to help them relax about it as well.

              gassho
              doyu shonin sat, lah'd and napped
              Visiting priest: use salt

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