The first step to solving any problem is to properly identify it. Our teacher, Thanat Chindaporn, likes to joke that if you have an itch on your right arm, you won’t get rid of it by scratching your left arm. As silly as it sounds, sometimes it seems as though that’s what we’re doing. If we spend all of our time collecting material possessions, are we really devoting ourselves to the tasks that are going to lead us to happiness and satisfaction? I agree that, especially for lay people, we need to work for food, shelter, health care and clothing but there should be a point at which these things are enough for us to survive and we then need to turn to the spiritual side.
Meditative inquiry is the only way for us to locate and identify why we are suffering. We cannot find this truth in a book. Even the words of the Buddha, as profound as they are, cannot substitute for direct knowledge of the four noble truths obtained from our own meditation practice. The four noble truths are the truth of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. These truths will arise naturally for a person who applies mindfulness correctly as part of a formal training course.
The four noble truths encapsulate the Buddha’s instructions for identifying the source of our stress and for how to eliminate it. For each of us, we will find through meditation, that this boils down to our obsession with past and future and the need for us to train ourselves to be in the present moment. In other words, the source of our stress is our inability to be mindful consistently and the cure for that problem is simply the reverse energy, which is mindfulness training. That is why our teacher, Kathryn Chindaporn, says that a well trained mind leads to happiness.