The Buddha’s first truth is the truth of dukkha. After we acknowledge and know dukkha, what comes next? If we fully face and accept any form of pain or discomfort, one breath at a time, then it’s just what is and it moves along. If we add aversion, “I don’t want this! This has to stop!”, then the aversion is the main event. Aversion is a form of clinging, and it causes us to take hold of the suffering and keep it close.
The work of the Buddha’s second truth is to recognize clinging, as it happens in our consciousness, and to abandon it.
Traditionally there are three kinds of clinging: (1) sensual desire, (2) desire for becoming (something), and (3) desire to get rid of (something). Measured by time, most of our grasping has to do with sensual desire, and it’s likely that we barely notice it. We like the sun on our face and feel we deserve it, we don’t like the barking dog and wish it would stop, we dream of the cake we’ll have later, we dread a scheduled event — it seems perfectly normal to drift from one moment of unconscious grasping to the next.
Some of us are moved more by greed and some by aversion, but the result is the same if we are at the mercy of our clinging. There’s a world of difference between “this feeling/thought is mine” and “this feeling/thought is happening”.
The second and third types of clinging have to do with our idea of ourself. We want to become more “like this” and less “like that”, perhaps more generous and less fearful, or richer and stronger and less subject to various constraints.
All three types of clinging are ways of grasping at experience, trying to direct it to satisfy an idea of how we’d like to feel. If we recognize clinging as it appears, we have the option of just dropping it, abandoning it, letting it go.
Ajahn Sucitto offers this quote in his book Pāramī: “Ajahn Chah said that being a monk is knowing about letting go, but being unable to do so for ninety percent of the time.” It’s humbling to think that we need to see our clinging and know that it’s possible to let it go ten times for every time that we succeed in letting go. And yet, if we keep watch over our minds, every tenth time, we can experience freedom.
“…contemplate the spacious mind that is welcoming experiences rather than always trying to control experience.” (Ajahn Sumedho from “The Fearless Mind”)