Buddhism swings you right out – the First Noble Truth – to look right at pain or unhappiness. It is the same thing as when Jesus said, “Pick up your cross.” We’ve got to bear the cross: the whole symbol of surrendering, rather than using his powers to fly up into the sky. We turn to pain and look right at it, feel it and investigate it: “What is it?” Notice how thoughts say, “This is pain – this is horrible. I can’t take this anymore.” We begin to watch the nature of these ideas that we tack onto the pain: making it my pain, and unendurable.
Mysteriously, once we start to look at pain it changes too, because it’s not a solid thing. So, this is what the physicists are learning: just the act of observing something is actually participating in changing it. By looking at suffering, we’re actually part of the transformation of it. Understanding it, standing under it, bearing with it, we become free from false notions of pain and pleasure. By investigating it, already we see it as something that appears to us, and then dispassion arises. – Venerable Kittisaro
*Painting by Brenna Garens