Here's a bit from a conversation I'm having with someone about "understanding", and whether we need to understand in order to relieve ourselves from unhappy experiences.
Have a lovely day!
I'm sorry to hear about the loneliness. I have something to offer you about that, and I’m going to do that within the context of the question you asked about the need to understand, which I’ve been thinking about since receiving your original email. I’m going to offer a few things about understanding in general, and then apply it to the loneliness and to the feelings you have about how people have hurt you in your life.
When I look at our position in this universe as human beings, it seems to me that we operate on two distinct levels.
The first is the purely human level. On this level we are identified with the body, with the feelings in the body, and with the thoughts in the mind. We are attached to our opinions, to the beliefs and assumptions we were handed as children, to our preferences and desires, and in general to the egocentric orientation to life that we have all be socialized to accept as real.
The second level transcends the purely human. On this level we are no longer identified with the body, feelings, or thoughts. We no longer assume our experience belongs to a separate “me”, because we are aware of an animating intelligence that is vastly larger than the ego, and which surrounds the ego, we might say, with all of its desires, preferences, opinions, and so on. It is within our capacity to identify with this greater awareness and as a result experience freedom from the limited perspective and the neediness of a separate self.
On this second level there is no need to understand what has happened to us and why, because we already inhabit the place where our drive to understand is supposed to carry us. We already experience peace, clarity, and compassion, and so to leave this state in order to understand something is like going backwards. In this place we do need to have the capacity to be aware of conditioned mind, however, so that we’re not confused when conditioned mind arises, and so that we don’t get pulled in. Awareness is different from understanding, however. You don’t need to understand anything in an intellectual sort of way in order to be aware of conditioned mind: you just need to be present and see it.
On the first, purely human level there is a way in which understanding can be helpful. It’s generally good to understand how one has been conditioned, what one’s patterns are, what one is inclined to assume, the conditioned behaviors one tends to indulge in, and so on, because this sort of understanding includes and leads to awareness. This is different from analysis, however. The helpful sort of understanding has less to do with thinking and drawing conclusions and more do to with looking and seeing what is so. The different between those two things is subtle but profound.
Having said that, here’s the central point in terms of the experiences you’ve been having, such as the loneliness and the hurt. On the transcendent level there is no suffering, but on the human level there is. I had a conversation about this with somebody just yesterday. He told me he’s learned that he can focus his attention on the breath and his body and, if he’s concentrating enough, can make everything he struggles with go away for a time. That’s my experience also: if I bring my attention here, to the present moment, and keep it here, my suffering ends—but only so long as my attention is here. He wanted to know why he keeps falling out of that clear, peaceful place, and back into conditioned mind. The reason, I told him, is that our suffering doesn’t end by avoiding it—even if the avoidance is the result of increased skill in directing the attention. From the place of transcendence we need to reach back into the world of human thoughts and feelings and save the human who suffers there. Over time, as we do the work of pulling the human out of the various forms of suffering s/he endures, the change becomes permanent and we more and more LIVE from center.
The thing that gives us the power to save the human we were conditioned to be is unconditional love.
So, for example, there is a part of you who is lonely, who has looked outside to relationships to take care of that loneliness, and who has failed to find relief there. The relationship she need to have is with you—as the centered, compassionate, loving, accepting person that you are and that we all are at Center. And so you might ask yourself what she, this lonely part of you, needs from you at this time. Does she need you to understand how she feels? Does she need your presence? She certainly needs your love and acceptance—what form might that take? I’d recommend that you take some time exploring this and see what happens. See if you can step back from being her, from being identified with her and her story, and into the place where you are aware of her and can offer unconditional love her. You can do the same process with the part of you feels hurt if you want to. Give it a try, and let me know what you see!