The cycle of affliction
The Cycle of Affliction is an unconscious chain of mental-physical reactions. It begins in early childhood with a traumatic experience, or a series of them, that create a pattern of visceral-emotional pain and contraction in the Vital Center. This psycho-somatic pattern becomes a constant strain on our life. The pattern expresses in daily life as a deep-rooted self-defense mechanism, a type of bracing. Patterns like this tend to repeat until interrupted. Such are the physics of suffering. This is what is meant by the Sanskrit word Samsara. An equivalent term in English might be "repetition compulsion." We are compelled to repeat what we have repeated. Samsara implies going round and round, continually sowing seeds of suffering. Until resolved, the Cycle of Affliction is always there at the gut-level in everything we do. It’s like a painful cramp that affects our ability to be who we truly are. Since the discomfort of it is constant, we are unconsciously fighting for relief all the time.
The experience of trauma and conditioning leave a type of psycho-physical debris inside the human body-mind. If this debris is not fully digested and eliminated it clogs the Vital Center and blocks the flow of life-energy within us. This diminishes our capacity to thrive in the Nine Petals. Over time, without knowing it’s happening, we can become a refugee inside our own skin. We start subtly resisting life. There is a kind of constriction at the core-level of our being. We begin contracting inward, away from life. Yet the Great Light constantly shines within us, despite our resistance.
Our natural unconditioned state is persistently shining like the sun behind a wall of clouds. Radiant health is our birthright and life is one hundred percent supportive. However, when we are constantly resisting discomfort, the potency of life can not flow through us smoothly. We experience this as a reduced sense of joy and ease. Things seem more difficult than they ought to be.
As we attempt to secure satisfaction in any Petal, a feeling of anxious discomfort is always getting in the way. We try to alleviate the discomfort, but nothing seems to work. We are always, in one way or another, in conflict with this primary discomfort. Because this is not our original state. It is not who we truly are.
This is what the term self-contraction actually means. It is an act of dissociation, a habituated pattern of self-protection. This survive reflex is an inborn way of coping with emergency situations. In a moment of extreme stress, we disassociate from experiences that are too painful to accept. This evolutionary mechanism helps us survive life-threatening challenges. It does have its place.
But life is not an emergency. The self-protection response easily gets stuck in the “on” position. This affects our physiology on every level and compromises the function of all body systems: digestive, nervous, endocrine, cardio-respiratory, etc. Since the Vital Center is the origin of all Nine Spheres, self-contraction distorts our innate capacity to thrive and experience fulfillment on every level.
We cannot release the cause of suffering until we fully understand it. This is why we practice self-observation. The practice of self-observation is one of the most straightforward and effective ways of breaking the Cycle of Affliction.
When we observe ourselves with total honesty and full acceptance, we being to notice how we constantly seek comfort and satisfaction. We see how often we abandon ourselves in work, food, drugs, social media, sexual fantasy, narcissism, video games, shopping . . . you fill in the blank. The results of this strategy of distraction—in terms of moments when we actually feel genuine contentment—are deplorable. I don't mean to diminish the wonderful experiences we've had, the value of our knowledge and possessions, or the important things we've accomplished. But ironically, even with all of this, fulfillment so easily slips from our grasp.
Because we don’t realize we are caught in the Cycle of Affliction.
Until this cycle is disrupted, we go round and round helplessly grasping for what can never be found inside such a cycle. The cycle is self-perpetuating. It always produces the same results: suffering. The purpose deep self-healing is to disrupt the pattern. To break the Cycle of Affliction. To bring us into lucid awareness of our actual situation.
Here’s the thing we must understand.
Suffering is an action we are choose. It does not come from out side of us. It is a self-sustaining sequence of choices we make moment by moment. Choices that perpetuate suffering are not in harmony with universal workings of natural law and they are not congruent with who we really are. Contrary to common assumption, suffering is not something that happens to us. It is something we make happen.
This might sound harsh. It might seem confronting. But it’s true.
The good news is: we have the innate capacity to understand ourselves and to change the course of our lives. Conscious action is a choice. And there is a radically different type of action we can take, one that breaks the Cycle of Affliction for good. This action is not something we do. It’s something we stop doing.
To break the Cycle we have to stop avoiding the most uncomfortable things in our lives (you know exactly the ones I’m talking about). We have to stop running from ourselves. Stop avoiding intimacy and vulnerability. We have to turn around and face ourselves with total acceptance, with relentless honesty, with love. When we begin to do this internally, the results start to spill out into all Nine Spheres. Life seems more spacious. There is room to breathe and a new type of enjoyment emerges.
There is a way to break the Cycle of Affliction once and for all. The method is not complicated. But it does take courage and persistence.
Once the Cycle of Awakening is set in motion, a whole new realm of possibilities opens up.