Greed, hatred, delusion
Generosity, loving kindness, wisdom
My friend Phil wrote:
At various times I use all the methods you describe, but the two I’ve found most helpful are slightly different applications of the First Noble Truth and mettā. With the FNT, I try to open to how much suffering there is in my resistance to the way things are, really deeply experiencing the unpleasantness of the mental agitation and physical contraction. And, the flip side of this, seeing how much I am suffering in this situation, sending mettā to myself.
I’m grateful for Phil’s comment. He goes straight to the source of the suffering, that is, our own clinging and our own pain that results from it. This is often not as subtle as you might think, but we may be disinclined to look into it. It is much easier to remove oneself from aggravating stimuli than to look into the aggravation itself. I am surely guilty of handling dukkha this way. Our instincts are so well-trained to move away from painful stuff and to move towards comfort and ease, just like amoebae. We don’t even think about it. But following the Buddha’s advice, we can understand ourselves and the world by looking into the experience rather than away from it.
So, let’s say there’s an aggravating family member at a gathering. We might avoid the person, but it’s impossible not to be aware of him/her. And if something unpleasant does happen, there’s a habitual thought pattern that pops up unbidden. Whatever objections we have to this person are reiterated in our mind and often out loud to others; it’s almost a compulsion. And yet – we could see it as a chance to look into what pain feels like, and try to discover the real source of the pain. What are the physical symptoms of revulsion or resistance? What are the deeply ingrained stories we attach to the person? Where is the suffering in this situation? What expectation are we holding that is being frustrated? Can that expectation be let go? Can we allow the negative feelings to be present and not be someone else’s fault?
It’s Phil’s last step that I often forget – giving loving kindness (metta) to oneself. Metta is both the cause for and the result of letting go of the clinging that causes dukkha.