Four Tasks: The Buddha gave us a formula — four tasks to accomplish whenever reactivity and anxiety is arising. Any anxiety, anger, sadness, confusion; always is accompanied and we could call suffering. And suffering is accompanied with Desire to relinquish, for the suffering to dissolve. What the Buddha discovered “Whatever arises passes“. Whatever comes into existence will pass away, so understanding that he understood the craving, the desire for the suffering to subside that desire if it arises it will pass away .
Change From Within Ourself: We can be confused and we think the cause of our suffering is outside of ourself — a person, a situation and we want that person to dissolve or that situation to go away or be gone or we want to control it or we want it to be different but this would be a foolish and ignorant . . . we all do that but that is not the way it is .
Our Anxiety and Reactivity, as well as the Desire for their passing, that all arises within ourselves, within our own heart. And that is the only thing we can really attend to. That is what we can change.
1st: Embrace It/Open to It: So the formula is when anxiety, confusion . . reactivity arises . . and the desire for it to subside. When these arise for us to embrace that. To open to it. To accept it. We can’t bypass it. We can’t repress it. It will only come back in a new and different and virulent way. So the first thing it to accept it and to be conscious of it.
2nd:Feel it & Let It Go: Without fueling it. Let it go. We need not fuel it with thoughts, and stories, and pictures, and concepts. But by just directly experiencing what is the sensation are, of our feelings. We stay with that they will subside. “All things rise. All things pass away.” So we stay with that process of them passing away. We stay present to that process .
The third one . . . to enjoy that relief. Enjoy the taste of liberation, that’s the taste of Nirvana — the release of suffering.
And the fourth step is to, from this place of contentment and peace to carry on with our life — to act.
Discrimination: The Second Step: I would like to repeat those but I want to emphasis what is necessary in that second step. What is necessary is the capacity to discriminate between our emotions and our thoughts. That is something we have to develop through our mediation practice. The thought are the stories, the pictures. He or she did that, the picture of that. And then the story line. The mind is a great story teller. And this self talk is like gasoline on a fire — it is what fuels the emotions. So we have to be able to leave the self talk aside, just ignore it. Just not pay any attention. And put all of our attention, all of our awareness, our consciousness — All on the sensations of our emotions, our feelings. We have to feel. Just like Hazrat Inayat Khan told us. This is direct experience not ‘virtual reality’, which the stories are.
Embrace/ Let Go/ Stop/ Act: So again the formula is: To accept what is arising. To focus on the sensations of those emotions without fueling them with stories and pictures. And stay with them as they subside. The third is to enjoy that liberation and relief from suffering. And four is to act from that place. That place of contentment and peace. So our actions will be skillful and compassionate from that place. We could use an acronym — ELSA — Embrace / Let Go / Stop / Act .
A Brief Practice in the Four Tasks
As with the use and experience of the Path of Gardening with its very similar tasks, whenever the unwanted comes towards you or rises up from within, it is an opportunity to bring the four tasks into action. It is not something that is practiced only in isolation from your daily life.