The Inner Revolution of Sukha Dukkha

blurry photo
Image by jenny downing

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you may have noticed a theme of change. I’d like to say that I’m settled in and that the ground has stopped shaking, but that is simply not the case. The changes that are taking shape are still blurred and out of focus. It reminds me of creating a photograph. We point the camera, zoom in and out, focus, and take the picture. I keep thinking that I’m trying to focus, but then I realize I don’t even know what the subject is. So, I bounce from one thing to another leaving me with a sense of wandering aimlessly.

Don’t get me wrong, since we started going to a Buddhist meditation center, I’ve had a lot of deeply moving and meaningful experiences. It’s hard to explain, so all I can say is that it’s as if my entire being just knows that being there is hugely significant for me right now. Life changing significant. And that, is precisely why I am having difficulty focusing.

As my ego’s initial reactivity calms down, I notice deeper issues coming up. Ajahn Sona (abbot of Birken Forest Monastery) was recently in town giving a dhamma talk about freedom. He talked about revolution and how once a revolution is won, the same existential issue still exists. Dealing with significant loss at an early age propelled me to examine my feelings around death and my own relationship with dying. So, I am no stranger to existential issues. Yet, I am also keenly aware that resonating so deeply with something that seems so familiar yet foreign is stirring the pot of my existence.

I am also aware that the process of change takes time. Even if events dramatically alter our reality, it takes time to grieve, accept, and move on. It takes time to settle down, evaluate, and process where we are and which direction we are headed. At least that’s what my ego self says. My soul seems to be saying something else. Relax, let go, and just see what unfolds.

"I'm still running away" by Vincepal
“I’m still running away” by Vincepal

That is where– what feels like – the inner conflict arises. My ego wants to keep running in an attempt to avoid inner doubts and fears. In my mind, I see it as a cartoon with someone running down the road not even realizing that nothing is chasing them. My soul gently reminds me that there is no need to run, nothing to escape from, and peace, happiness, and well-being are the opportunities at hand. Meaning and purpose are developing a stronger foothold in my life.

There is a revolution within. In Pali, sukha means happiness and dukkha is a word for pain. Sometimes, it can feel like my ego is waging a battle between sukha and dukkha. We think we want more happiness, but that also poses a threat to our familiar reality. Defenses are triggered and sirens sound off. Who or what will win?

For me, the revolution within has been won in many ways, but the threat to my existence still remains. My reality is changing. All I can do is surrender and attempt to move in the direction of happiness instead of dukkha. Either way, both happiness and pain – sukah dukkha – will be part of life. I can keep running or simply stop for a moment. Sit down and wait to see which direction I want to go. I hope my inner GPS can find a middle way instead of bouncing from one extreme to the other.

As with all things, impermanence is a fact of life. All states are transitory. Our moods and experiences will shift – most likely – far more rapidly and often than we realize or desire. Hopefully, I can use that awareness to be more mindful of sukha dukkha. It’s even fun to say and makes me smile….. Sukha Dukkha.


© 2012 Sallie Odenthal

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