The Second Noble Truth is the suffering, dis-ease or disappointment caused by our attachment (desire) for what we want or to what we don’t want. Suffering also known as dukkha and lies It is our futile attempts to find security in a constantly changing world.
How I experience the causes of suffering are primarily through my physical changes as I age. Some of these changes are painful through injuries from overexertion, strains, falls, etc. But for me, the far more profound suffering I create myself with my thoughts. I struggle with holding on to who I was physically as a younger and extremely athletic man. My thoughts are often of comparing what my capabilities were then to what my limitations are now. My desires are to be able to perform what that younger self could easily accomplish, and I feel aversion to how my body is essentially failing to meet my desires. Most of my work, as I sit on my cushion meditating each morning, is to practice letting go of my thoughts that are contrary to the truth, and accept that I exist in an impermanent constantly changing world.
by Jacob Burdis
I had an interesting experience not long ago in which I experientially understood the wisdom of the second noble truth of Buddhism. We often go as a family on weekend trips to Southern Utah. During a recent trip, we were hiking to a popular destination in Capitol Reef. It was a late afternoon in May, partly cloudy and about 70 degrees. During the hike, it began to drizzle. I began to cover up, put my hands in my pockets and hug my arms to my side in an effort to stay warm. My four-year-old daughter was on my back in a child carrier, and I started worrying about her catching a cold. I was cold, wet, and was beginning to question the wisdom in choosing the hike. I longed for the rain stop and the sun to come back out so I could enjoy my hike and make the most of my trip.
After a few minutes, I paused and asked myself if I was being mindful of the situation. I took a step back from my mental maelstrom of reactivity and practiced getting in touch with my body and my senses in that moment. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I noticed my mind and muscles work together to navigate the rocky terrain. I felt the mist-like raindrops against my exposed skin. I took a moment to recognize the fresh rain smell and breath it in. In that moment, I stopped being cold. I stopped hugging my arms to my side and was able to relax. I became intensely curious about all the sensations I was experiencing and was accepting of them all. I began to recognize some of my faulty thinking. I wasn’t really cold (it was still quite warm outside) and my daughter wasn’t going to get sick. Everything became ok in that moment. At one point after this realization, I turned around and saw a beautiful rainbow against the dark clouds, as if the universe were reminding me that everything really was ok.
In reflecting on this experience, I recognize experiential evidence of the second noble truth — the cause of suffering. My favorite description of the second noble truth is that suffering is caused when we crave for life in this moment to be different than what it actually is.
It wasn’t the wet conditions that caused suffering, it was my reaction to those conditions. Instead of actually feeling the sensation of being cold and uncomfortable, I convinced myself that wet = cold, and cold = discomfort. Instead of accepting the weather conditions as they were, I craved for the weather to change to be sunny again. But when I let go of my desire for the conditions to be different, and I actually checked in with my body, the suffering seemed to melt away.
This was a great lesson for me that most of the suffering I experience is of my own making when I let craving and delusion distract me from living life fully in each moment.