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The suffering the Buddha spoke of included people’s longing for pleasure and the knowledge that one day everyone will be parted from their loved ones. It included the fact that the wonders of life end in death.
The Buddha called this suffering dukkha.
Human beings are like a dog, he said, tied to a post and unable to escape, forever pulling at the rope. He called this trap of suffering the wheel of samsara, or the cycle of life and death.
In the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha takes joy in telling his students how the body can lead the way to enlightenment. Begin, he advises, by sitting on the floor with your back straight and your legs crossed. Focus on your breath.
Start by simply noting what is happening: I am breathing in. I am breathing out. Then take note of whether the breath is short or long. Eventually, you’ll become aware of where you are in the breath – the beginning, middle, end. As you go on, you’ll notice that you don’t just breathe with your nose and your mouth, or even lungs. Breath occurs through the whole body
The first is impermanence. Feel your nerves spark with micro-sensations, and note that these always pass. Second, witness the driving force of suffering. See how you shift positions to counter an ache in your tailbone or stretch to ease a cramp.
Third and last, see how mindfulness of the body reveals the absence of the self. You are skin, bone, sinew, organs, bile, snot, and tears. You are an interdependent system of things. There is no bigger you behind it. In this context, “you” – as the entity directing the system – are a fiction.
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