Exploring duhkha and clinging…

Since my last post, life has continued to offer many rich lessons in spirit, community, practice, and intellect!

I was fortunate to create an opportunity to attend a workshop with Sri O.P Tiwari from India.  He focused on the Yoga-Sutras and pranayama (prana ~ breath, life force energy; yama ~ to extend, to move…breathing with awareness).  It was a weekend full of insights, humour and depth…consistently reminding us to practice with sincerity and not seriousness!

Tiwari also spoke often of duhkha (lack; felt sense of being unsatisfied; suffering) and upon reflection, I think a common quality associated with duhkha is clinging…clinging to ones sense of self, clinging to a reality created by the mind– as it appears to the mind, not necessarily as it is.  This clinging can limit possibilities and contract the potential for being intimately tied to life.

One can cling to anything–resistance, loneliness, desires–this quality provides us with a sense of control and ‘simplifies life’ by splitting it into categories…bits and pieces.

Yet is it not this splitting the creates the lack, the splitting that shatters ones sense of belonging, therefore motivating us to find intimacy outside ourselves rather than connecting with the intimacy present within each moment of life?

I am intrigued to explore the concept and action of clinging because it is familiar in sensation and in my mind – and it has been fascinating to dialog with this quality and watch it’s connection to the ego as it tries to become something!  In this paragraph I speak of duhkha in reference to ones inner dialog.  Being a recent witness to an individual’s suffering largely linked to their experience of clinging…the emotion and sensation that manifested was emptiness and loneliness–sensations familiar to us all!  Within the western world, emptiness-loneliness-lack, is often dealt with by grounding ones self in external satisfactions of money, sex, or fame to support a sensation of feeling real in the world as it appears.

What if we were to accept, acknowledge and live with the experience of emptiness?

Consider there is opportunity in lack, in suffering, in the void.  Consider that one’s sense of inadequacy is the greatest gift waiting to be explored, an opportunity for transformation!  Michael Stone says it well – “if we can open up to that ungroundedness at our core, if we can let go and yield to it, then we find that it’s the source of our creativity and our spirituality; that at the very core of our being…there is something that transcends the self and yet is the basis of the self” (p. 44).

I speak of all this, not only because it feels relevant in life right now, but because I think duhkha and clinging can be closely linked to community change processes.  Consider clinging as a form of resistance to accepting ‘what is’ in the present moment…consider the ecological crisis that is occurring on this planet and the resistance to change from many governments and corporations…consider an anthropocentric view that “if we only see nature in terms of accumulation and the marketplace [to fulfill our insatiable lack], the natural world becomes nothing but bits and pieces” (Stone, p. 143). existing in a separate system from humanity.  Duhkha is experienced globally which calls for a revolution of the cultural heart.

Is it possible for those advocating for their communities, supporting change processes, investing in a sustainable future to integrate a subtle and mindful ways of being that could shift the roots of communities and migrate up the trunk and branches to impact the broader system?

It begins with one person.

Consider setting the intention to observe experiences where clinging is present, or observe moments of emptiness, loneliness, or lack and ask what lays beneath those sensations.

“The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think” – Gregory Bateson


Stone, M. (2009). Yoga for a world out of balance: Teachings on ethics and social action. Boston, USA: Shambhala Publications.


1 thought on “Exploring duhkha and clinging…

  1. Pingback: spiritual authority and the forgotten essentials of buddhism « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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