Joseph Goldstein talks about the nature of struggle and why working with experiences of pain and difficult states of mind can be a boon for our mindfulness practice.
This dharma talk from October 1983 was originally published on Dharma Seed.
The Nature of Struggle
Joseph dives into the nature of struggle. He talks about how we can use struggle in the service of investigating our own boundaries and expanding the range of experiences we can be with. Joseph zeroes in on our experience of pain: changing our relationship with it, becoming more accepting of it, how it’s a good object of meditation, and why humor is so important in working with it.
“This struggle has two aspects. One aspect is that of it being a misdirected energy, it’s a misdirected effort. It’s like we find ourselves fighting with experience, fighting with life, out of harmony. So it’s the use of our energy in a disharmonious way. But it also has a positive aspect. And it’s understanding this positive aspect which we can turn to our advantage in the practice. And that is at times of suffering, or times of struggling, in our practice here or our lives outside, that struggle is a signal, or it illuminates, the fact that we have come to some edge or some boundary in our minds, in our hearts, of what we’re willing to be with, of what we’re willing to accept. So we’re brought right to the edge.” – Joseph Goldstein
Joseph Goldstein explores pain and trust in Insight Hour Ep. 136
Working with Restlessness and Boredom (25:00)
Joseph discusses other elements of experience that can bring us to the edge, elements that create struggle if we don’t understand how to work with them. He talks about working with restlessness, boredom, and anger; there’s nothing in our experience that falls outside the range of practice. It’s about learning to relate to these states from a place of balance.
“Instead of struggling with the restlessness, see if it’s possible, in the same way we work with pain, to relax into it, to open, to investigate exactly what the nature of restlessness is. Because, like pain, restlessness is an abstraction for more specific experiences. Can you pinpoint, or can you dissect, this combination of experiences which we call restlessness?” – Joseph Goldstein
RamDev talks about boredom and nonduality in Healing at the Edge Ep. 72
Questions about Struggle (39:15)
Joseph takes questions from the audience about working with pain and difficult states of mind. He talks about the power of returning to the breath in meditation, not solidifying our concept of pain, pinpointing feelings of restlessness, dealing with sadness, and struggling with drowsiness. Joseph ends with a reminder about having a sense of continuity in our mindfulness practice.
“What we’re trying to do is discover the nature of mind, the nature of our experience. And what’s so powerful about it is that the nature of mind is universal. When we understand the nature of sadness in ourselves, we understand the nature of sadness in everybody. The stories are different. The content is different. But the nature of these states is the same.” – Joseph Goldstein