For every increase in consciousness, there is an increase in sensitivity to both joy and pain. This is the deal life gives, which includes the ability to foresee our own dissolution. To try to slip this deal we feel is unjust, we’ve created stories that explain why this is all happening and how we can avoid it, or better it in some fundamental way. We call stories revealed to prophets Religion. We call stories devised by those seeking to improve social systems Ideologies – like Communism, Capitalism, National Socialism. We call the idea that human beings deserve rights and privileges that mice, fish and lettuce should not have Humanism. We hope that these stories will ameliorate the essential suffering in our existence, and forget we suffer more because we believe the stories and do not remember that they were created in lieu of an initial acceptance of the terms of existence.
In the same way that thinking about changing your diet does not make you more healthy, thinking about ideas does not remove suffering. As adding more food to an already unhealthy diet is not an effective strategy, adding more thoughts to a confused mind only increases confusion. Praying to a refrigerator filled with processed food will not change the nutritional content, nor will creating a complicated philosophy to explain how the bad food is actually good food. The only effective strategy is to empty the fridge and begin to consider what to put in place of what was there.
This then, is the departure point for what we call Practice. We know very little about the nature of the universe, and the capacities of our own consciousness. One thing we do know is that practice somehow creates habit patterns that can lead to greater skill. The question then becomes What To Practice. If our practices were designed to attempt to slip life’s Terms of Service, then we’d be practicing and getting better at avoiding what we are already avoiding.
There are no easy answers here, there is no 30 day challenge or charismatic speaker that will solve the problem of our refusal to accept life. It might be that unacknowledged grief is what you’ll feel first, if you eventually tire of the practices of avoidance. What I’ve found is that the grief we want to avoid is the same expression of love you see when someone returns after a long period of absence. It is the physical manifestation of the acceptance of the pain of a long period of separation.