The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism:
- There will always be suffering
- The truth of the source of suffering
- The truth of the end of suffering
- The truth of the path to end suffering
There will always be suffering in life. We find that to be truth in our own experiences. Many sources of human suffering exist. They can be external forces, whether that’s war or the COVID-19 pandemic. We have little or no influence in these.
The sources of suffering that we have a say in are essentially internal. These sources reside within all of us. My great source of suffering is my fear that I’m not good enough. I failed getting that promotion at work. Someone I love isn’t in love with me. In my mind, I make that mean: I’m not good enough. Though my fear has nothing to do with what’s present, with what’s so.
I’m Godan (5th degree black belt) in Aikido. I’ve been a Satellite Systems Engineer for over 30 years. I’ve accomplished a lot in my time on Planet Earth. Yet, I can fall into: I’m not good enough. I really suck! That’s my fear from the past, my fear of never being good enough for Dad.
In Aikido, Ishibashi Sensei says, “Apply the (Aikido) technique to yourself.” The attacker and the attack are irrelevant. O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” I work on myself, not on others. I have nothing to do with what goes on inside another person. Still, I have a say in what goes on inside me.
Suffering is, much like life, finite in design: There will be an end to suffering. Hopefully, the end occurs before we die. Just saying.
I believe life is all about the Fourth Noble Truth of Buddhism: The path to end suffering. We have little or no say in the matter for the other Noble Truths. That’s just life.
My great source of suffering was my abusive childhood. Growing up at home, Dad terrified the hell out me. I never knew what I did or didn’t do that made him so angry at me. I got that I would never be good enough for Dad, that I would never be good enough, period. I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to prove that I am smart enough, that I am strong enough, and that I am, in fact, good enough. I soon discovered that being more of anything will never be enough. Again, that’s life. Just saying.
Over 30 years ago, I began Aikido training with the late Mizukami Sensei. He became a father to me. Sensei taught me what it is to be a good man, to be of service to others. Sensei said, “Just train. It’s not like you have to get somewhere.” For the first time in my life, I was free to be me, free to invent the greater-than versions of myself. I was just free.
Through my own trials and tribulations, I discovered my path to end suffering: Just train. Sensei taught me that success and failure are just part of the path, part of life. I invent the best version of myself from both. Yeah, there will always be suffering in life, there will always be disappointment. Still, I put in the work. It’s about what I have to do and what I have to give up to become the better man, the greater person. Just train.
Cheryl Hunter taught me the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi: There is beauty in our imperfection. Cheryl said, “Life is imperfectly perfect.” The path to end suffering is accepting myself for who I am and forgiving me for who I’m not. Amen.
In Aikido, Ishibashi Sensei says, “The safest place to be is under the sword, under the attack.” I enter the danger, enter what I fear. Every time I enter what I fear, I let go some of my fear inside, my fear of not being good enough, of not being worthy of love. That fear inside may never completely disappear. Yet, each time I enter what I fear, I release a little more of that fear inside. I free me.
I enter what I fear in my work with my therapist Lance to heal my childhood trauma and depression. No, I don’t forgive my dad for his cruelty and unkindness upon Mom, my sister Carol, and me. I forgive Dad for being imperfectly human, for being afraid, not knowing how to raise me. I forgive myself for being imperfectly human, too. I forgive me for not being strong enough as a little boy to protect Mom.
Working with my therapist, Lance, I evolved compassion for Dad. I got that as bad as it was for me growing up as a little boy, Dad had it way worse from his dad. The sad tragedy of abusive parenting. My path to end suffering lies in learning to love and forgive mine own self.
There will always be suffering in life. That is truth. We all must find our path to end suffering. On my path to end suffering, I love myself for who I am and forgive myself for who I’m not. I accept and embrace my imperfection, my weakness. That’s part of who I am. I enter what I fear. I let go of I’m not good enough. I love and forgive mine own self. In the bigger picture, I just train. What the late Mizukami Sensei taught me. Just saying.
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