Posted 3 June 2015 by Sal
Sadness and Suffering
I have been thinking about the phrase "all things will pass," which I understand. However, if things do actually pass (such as my father's death), but stay with me in an emotional way, are you just pointing to the actual event passing? And what do the words really mean? If something does pass, but it stays with me, what would you call that?
No, I don't mean just the physical part. All emotions pass as well. In fact, if you just have an honest look, you will recognize that the emotion comes and goes, and in fact, is mostly not present. If you think of your father, then sadness may appear. A little while later, you are immersed in work and it is not appearing. Also, it is not appearing when you are enjoying a sunset, laughing at your partner's jokes, watching TV, having a bad nightmare or beautiful dream at night, or just thinking of nothing in particular.
So, in that way, you can see that no appearance is permanent. And, in fact, that sadness is never quite the same each time. Sometimes it is strong, sometimes it is mild, sometimes it is crushing, sometimes it is sentimental or nostalgic, and sometimes it is sweet and tender. It is not a static fixed thing that is permanent. In a year, it will be less. In ten years, even far less. So, it is not permanent, it passes. In fact, it is mostly not appearing at all. See that for yourself.
We have created the concept of continuity, that something appearing in our mind remains there, like in the subconscious. That, however, is only a belief, and that belief causes a lot of suffering. Just as in nature, appearances come and go—wind comes and goes, the moon comes and goes, rain comes and goes, winter, spring, summer, fall come and go. This is natural and it is just the same for thoughts and emotions. They are natural appearances too.
And there is something present during all of those things I just mentioned. Guess what that is? Yep, YOU. Your essential, aware nature. That is always present in all of the moments of sadness or joy. You would never know any of those experiences without your essential, aware nature being present. It is because of YOU that anything is known.
So, when sadness for your father arises, it is a natural appearance and perfect as it is. In that moment, just notice your essential, aware nature. You, aware. This stops the "poor me" story. Instead, it shines the light of wisdom on the story. In that moment, you will know the sadness is impermanent. That is wisdom. Getting into a “poor me” story and believing that it is permanent or continuous causes suffering. Without the story, sadness arises and passes in its very natural flow. It is just an appearance passing by.
Sadness is natural. If we keep building up the story, which is what we have been taught to do, it will cause sadness to linger around for a long time. But that is not necessary. Also, it is not necessary to think, “If I don't dwell on the sadness for a long time, it means I don't love my father enough.” That is another learned and false belief.
See in your own experience that everything arises and passes, appears and disappears. And when you recognize your essential, aware nature during an appearance, it takes on a very natural rhythm and just passes by without lingering or causing any harm. When you recognize, you will see that you are on to the next experience and emotion very quickly. And that too shall pass. But you remain, always, aware.