Tools for a More Meaningful Life April 8, 2021By Alicia Bazán-Jiménez teachings Sharing the Dharma with people who are curious and inquisitive about tools to make their lives more fully and meaningful has become a passion for me. Since I began the practice of insight meditation about 15 years ago, my main focus has been to find ways in which the Dharma can be used as a source of tools to live better. Given the undeniable truth of the presence of stress and troubles in everybody’s life, I always remind myself and others that we need to accept this as a fact. The challenges we encounter frequently cause us uneasiness, discomfort, pain, or intense suffering, or Dhukka. The Dharma tells us that we need to learn to understand that we are suffering and that we need to contemplate deeply and honestly the characteristics of our suffering, knowing that there are ways to reduce the level of suffering if we train our minds. In doing so, we don’t deny other beautiful life experiences and at the same time we don’t develop aversion or become bitter knowing that this inevitable aspect of suffering in life constantly challenges us. Contemplation. The practice of meditation is a contemplative practice. We contemplate what is happening in this moment, inside us but also our surroundings. We use skillful means like the breath, sounds, or other means to help us focus and collect ourselves. For instance, when we feel a contraction in the body, we know it is time to pause, breathe mindfully and locate the tension in the body. The body will immediately give us a clear indication about our state of Dukkha (suffering) we are experience at any moment. We don’t need to know or explain at that precise moment “why” or “how” a stressful experience has arisen. We need to acknowledge the experience first. Later on we can investigate how and why it happens. “Dhukkhameter”. Being able to understand and sense our suffering and how it manifests and affects us is a valuable tool that the Dharma provides us. The body is an exquisite and extremely sensitive radar that captures every single experience, physical or mental. Emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, anxiety, distress, disappointment, and the myriad of other emotions manifest in the body. Therefore, to understand our suffering we always start with sensing the body. In order to capture what is happening we need to “install” a good instrument. I call that instrument a “Dhukkhameter”. Meditation is a practice through which we train to become aware and contemplative. We establish the conditions to learn how to be mindful of our moment-to-moment experience. A “Dukkhameter”, if well “calibrated”, can measure the intensity and the frequency of the dukkha (suffering) we experience. If used properly, it will constantly measure our state of being. It is similar to having a thermometer measuring the temperature of the body. When we sit to meditate we are training ourselves to use the “Dukkhameter”. However, the true test is the reality of life; the day-to-day, moment-to-moment experiences of life; the physical sensations produced by the living body, the flow of physical, mental, and emotional energy that circulates continuously, that is the nature of life. If our “Dukkhameter” can be calibrated daily through the practice of meditation in a consistent manner, we will be able to use this tool effectively in discerning and identifying those thoughts and emotions that can damage us if we create false refuges to protect us from suffering. Toolbox. The Dharma is so rich and vast that we can choose among the teachings those that are more relevant and applicable in our lives, at any moment, and construct our own “toolbox”, tailored to serve each one of us in a practical way, day in and day out. No tool box is equal to others. Each one of us has to know our own mental and emotional patterns and the ways in which we get stuck and suffer. Also, being life a flux, we need to understand that the tools we use today will probably not be used in the same way in the future. Our experiences will be different and we will have evolved. I would like to express deep gratitude to my teachers, especially to Tara Brach, who showed me the path that made my life much more beautiful. Alicia's weekly drop-in class schedule can be found on her Teacher page.