Monday, November 28, 2011

Suffering Solstices

It's easy to see why there are so many religious and secular holidays and festivals occurring near the winter solstice. It is, in the northern hemisphere, simply a dark and gloomy time of year when we all need cheering up a bit. And, for most of us, the festivities do a lot of good.

The problem arises when we are experiencing seriously real suffering at a time of carefully constructed joyfulness and merriment. Especially when we are either subtly or overtly told to ignore our suffering for the sake of everyone's enjoyment of the season. It usually doesn't help that Buddha told us in the Second Noble Truth that this would happen simply by building the merriment infrastructure.

So how do we manage this? How do we understand suffering, as Buddha exhorts us to do in the First Noble Truth in this time when we would much rather understand joy? We remember that sickness, old age and death do not respect the seasons. We find our moments within the suffering. We could even invite someone to spoil our party.

If we can see past our own suffering to use this time to evoke our Avalokiteshvara sense, and open our arms to the suffering of the world, then the possibility of awakening shines through the rocks. When our own suffering joins with the stream of the world and we understand it as reality we have a chance to awaken and move towards realizing Cessation. When we retreat and try to blank it out we become mired in delusion.

Bring forth your suffering!

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