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The Source of Suffering, Raising Teenagers, and How Pork Rinds Inspired Me

Ever sit and listen to someone, or ourselves talk? Really hear? Not the details of the specific story, today or yesterday but the big picture? We are like a plate of spaghetti, a veritable nest of good versus bad intermingled with each other, sometimes appearing to take shape and have a pattern and at other times complete tangled knots of confusion. We are a never ending series of, "I want this, and I don't want that, more of this and less of that, I like, I don't like" and so on and so on. We are in constant craving and desire or avoidance and fear. And when we are not we sit in our own ego and every once and a while we may become aware of this and sit in the space of emptiness. There is a name for this in both the yogic teaching and buddhist teachings, it is called Avidya or Dukkha.

Avidya means, the clouding of perception, it is described as the root cause of obstacles that prevent us from recognizing things as they really are and this description is broken down further in to four limbs of this tree called the kleshas. In Buddhism Dukkha is the name given to the universal suffering we are born into and the Four Noble Truths are our guide to eliminating this suffering.

It's important to know that seeing things as good or bad is not what to look for, it is instead simply to notice, become aware of when we are using these afflictions of the mind, notice it is that which is actually causing the suffering we feel.

The Ego, one of the four Kleshas is not in itself a good or bad thing, a sense of self associated with the ego is ok, a self important sense of self, comparing one to another placing one's self as better than, more knowledgeable than, higher than, this is where the ego gets sticky, where our perception can begin to cause harm, suffering. The buddha's teachings speak about egolessness, this is an extreme discipline of no ego, of losing the idea of self to the greater sense of oneness in all things. I love this as an ideal, a discipline, but in the world this is as doable as imagining your child will never speak back to you if you simply hold this space of no ego, no hierarchy. Believe me I've tried, it requires that all beings be striving for this same egolessness together, and well teenagers are at the developmental stage of their ego. Parenting without Avidya, there is the true discipline.

Raga is the word for our attachments, things we think we should have or not have. These are our cravings and desires. We think we are owed physical possessions or physical connections. Our relationships to love, within familial relationships or partner relationships are another place of sticky thinking. We think because of the role one plays in this lifetime, mother, child, sister, lover and so on that they have a responsibility to love in a certain way. Imagine for a moment if we could lose our expectations of other, of even ourselves how that would open up space, like a breath of fresh air to enjoy the present moment with whatever has arrived. We get into sticky places of thinking we want to be with one person or another share this kind of time instead of that kind of time, leading us down this uncharted path of potential disappointment or longing, neither of which a thing that helps to hold a space of inner calm and serenity, right? And apply this to things, possessions in our lives and we are in a constant state of wanting or craving more, a better job, a nicer car, a vacation to escape our difficult lives, dinners out, the latest style in clothes and so on and so on. One of my favorite quotes pulls me right to the core of this yo-yo ing back and forth between wanting and not wanting:

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes"

-Marcel Proust

It couldn't be more centering, finding the beauty, the peace , the whatever we think we are lacking by seeing differently the space we are inhabiting. I release the suffering caused by these attachments by losing the attachment to all this pushing and pulling. We go on vacation and sit watching a sunset and say, "ah, how peaceful, how beautiful" as if the sun doesn't set in a visible place right where we live. If we could pause long enough in our busy minds to see and feel gratitude for what is in our world, as if taking a 360 degree view around instead of the pin pointed focus of our current desire we might just catch a glimpse of the beauty that is always there for us.

Dvesa is the word used for the limb of suffering that comes from our avoidance of unpleasant or unfamiliar things. Ever decided not to do something because you had never done it before? I'm talking about our habitual behaviors, think about how you do things and how attached you are to doing them that way because, you always have, because you family always has and so on, now think about the flipside to this, the rejection of the way others do things because it is not like you do them, or if you are asked to try something new, trust in someone, be vulnerable a good mix of avoidant and attachment behaviors swell up inside while you're trying to decide, again this pushing and pulling that leaves the brain tired and that part inside you that has intuition, real knowing, is compromised, pushed down and covered with all these rules you've set for yourself. The next time something comes up, ask yourself really if your beliefs are really serving what will bring you inner serenity. I'm careful not say happiness because I'm not condoning irresponsible, harming behavior as a way of breaking free from the rules that bind us. I am instead using the word inner serenity, a choice based on non harming behavior towards yourself and others would not lead you to make choices that would then cause harm. Read that again.

And finally, Abhinivesa - (Fear) One of the biggest stop signs in our own ability to release suffering is our fear, the what if statements, the potential problems of the future, our inaction due to our perception of fear about whatever it may be. I've always heard that anxiety is worry or fear about the future, where depression is worry and ruminating over the past and fear is our biggest elephant in the room where it comes to these debilitating mental health states and fear keeps our bodies in the sympathetic nervous system or the fight and flight mode. We cannot find inner serenity without accessing the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest mode and to do that we must be out of a state of fear and in a state of complete presence.

All of these limbs when practiced with discipline are the path to enlightenment. This path, this discipline, this is the goal, not how long it takes to arrive but simply the disciplined journey. In raising teenagers the commitment to this path does not yield results quickly but rather it lays seeds that will, if watered germinate in the time that they are meant to for each individual human. We can't rush the process, we can't wish for different reality, that is the practice, releasing attachments, being aware of what we are avoiding due to unfamiliarity, what we are afraid of and how we are using our ego.

Pasta Estiva with Pork Rind "breadcrumbs"

Ingredients for 2

1/2 red onion chopped

1 jar high quality tuna in olive oil, I use Coles

handful cherry tomatoes

Bunch of basil

buffalo mozzarella, cubed and set aside

Epic pork rinds (

they are an ethical company) ground up

Saute' chopped onion in 2 tbsp of the olive oil from the tuna jar on medium heat until translucent, add tuna and cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper and toss to coat and soften the tomatoes, set aside.

Boil water and cook whatever gluten free pasta or flour pasta you prefer reserve a cup of the salted water.

Toss the pasta and sauce together, in the sauce pan, add water over a medium heat and m

ozzarella and shredded basil at the last moments.

Plate and sprinkle with more pepper and pork rind "breadcrumbs" .

Buon appetito !

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