"It's hard work to suffer."

I recently found this interview very insightful. It's mostly about Roger Linden's experience of non-duality. He's pleasant to listen to. But the most meaningful, to me, was this part, from 2:04 until 8:04:

Roger: "I think in all the years that I practiced, which is over 30 years now, I don't think I've ever met someone who's understanding and belief about what their problem was... their understanding was always wrong. They were never right about what the problem actually was. I think, because if we really knew what the problem was, it would have evaporated. So I see the work – a lot is helping people to appreciate what's really happening; or what's really causing pain, or suffering, or frustration, whatever it may be."

Iain: "And what is that in most people that's causing the pain and frustration?"

Roger: "Well, fundamentally, the sense of self, and the contraction that goes along with that, that in life happens when we're very young; and then, to a greater or lesser extent, strains and stresses and resistance builds throughout life. Or what appears as the personal life. And unless held in place by assumptions and beliefs, some of which can fall away without there even needing to be liberation. And so life can be a lot easier, even though there's still that assumption of separation. So it's mainly contraction, mainly a... holding-on."

Iain: "Cause it gets- it seems to get harder and harder to be a successful me, because there's always this pressure, the media especially, it's kinda – you know, you get new clothes, a new car, or have the perfect holiday, and then you'll be a better and happier me. But of course, it's very temporary, and you might feel better for a few days, and then – you're a more unhappy me, because you spent the money trying to be the happier me. So I think it gets tougher and tougher to actually..."

Roger: "Can do, yeah. But one of the things that has been realized, not simply after that walk on Hampstead Heath, but for many years, I think it came from initially the practice of meditation, that life needn't be such hard work. There needn't be suffering. So I'm immensely grateful to what I learned as a meditator, and as a teacher of meditation, because when I trained as a counselor, and then as a therapist, I was sometimes attending seminars where it was assumed that suffering was essential. And was part of the human condition and couldn't be resolved. And I don't believe that. And I still don't believe it, I think it can be resolved; and funnily enough... it's very simple, the resolution. It's challenging, because there are old habits. But it's not a very difficult thing to do: to stop straining, to stop struggling, stop... beliefs that are false and give rise to pain and discomfort."

Iain: "So why doesn't it happen to more people then?"

Roger: "Well, because generally people have, especially in our culture, have learned that the harder you work at something, the more you get. Which is true. In terms of strain and stress, the harder you work at it, or try to get rid of it, the more you are likely to have... strain. Learning how to stop straining is a challenge but it's basically very very simple."

Iain: "How do you do it, then?"

Roger: "Well, you don't do it, you stop doing it."

Iain: "But isn't it like – you know, something is... the juggernaut is on the road, it's running and running, and actually to change a thought pattern takes – well, in my experience, tremendous energy somehow, because that is the norm. And to change it takes a lot of will."

Roger: "It can do. Or you could just release your breathing. Because the juggernaut of thinking patterns is sustained by contraction in the body, and one of the most obvious effects of that is restriction in the breathing. So if the breathing is released, just in an ordinary way, the intensity of the thought patterns will ease. And it's impossible to have that juggernaut going, unless there's some restriction in the breathing. So learning about something like that, learning how to let the breath be easy, to let the mental focus soften, the mental focus which is simply contraction. It's a strange thing that became clear after liberation, that the belief that there's something called attention that can be focused externally – was a complete fantasy."

Iain: "Hahahaha."

Roger: "Complete fantasy. In fact, all that happens is that this – for example, seeing the glass on the table, and putting attention on it is simply contracting a little bit. A little contraction around the eyes, and a restriction of the breathing, and it makes it seem as if something is being projected over there. It's not happening at all. There's simply contraction. And it's quite simple to learn to let that contraction ease. And when it does, what you call the juggernaut of thought and struggle starts to fall away. And it's not that it completely dissolves and never returns, but with a little practice – and the practice is essentially stopping the strain – which is effortless – life becomes easy. More comfortable. It's hard work to suffer."

That last sentence especially struck a chord with me.


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