What do we grasp at?

We can develop our wisdom by maintaining awareness (as continuously as possible) of our mind states. If we are persistent, one thing we will notice is what circumstances or thought patterns stimulate our grasping and which do not.

Recommended experiment:
Over the course of a day or a week, try to recognize the moments when you feel the onset of the physical and mental tightness that are the hallmarks of grasping. What are we reacting to? What is the thought uppermost in our minds? What is the stimulus, right now, that is tying us in knots, or getting us stuck into circular thinking?

Some of my “negative” grasping points: When people don’t make space for others (ironic, since I’m not the best at this). Also, empty or lazy conversation, loud noise (unless it’s in a concert hall), high-polluting vehicles, folks who don’t control their pets.

Some of my “positive” (or greedy) grasping points: quiet spaces, well-performed music, my baseball team experiencing success (so ephemeral!), my family or friends in a happy state, beach holidays.

I call these categories negative and positive, but all these objects of clinging cause suffering because they can only be temporarily satisfied. If I get what I want or avoid what I don’t want, it only happens in passing, and then things move along in ways I have no control over. Looking closely enough, I see that there’s almost none of it I have control over, and I’m only increasing my unhappiness with my wanting this and not-wanting that.

Sometimes I’m able to maintain equanimity because I remember that irritating events have nothing to do with me, they are just happening in my vicinity. Sometimes I remember not to get too excited by good news because it’s all temporary. On my best days, I’m just flowing with experience and not getting too excited by the pleasant stuff and not getting too upset by the unpleasant.

As far as I know, there is no other way to arrive at true equanimity (or, we could say, a truly open heart) than to study our experience closely enough to see ourselves creating suffering by clinging. When we observe that process clearly, we automatically release our grasping.

What we cling to is not as important as noticing the act of clinging, the process of grasping – how it feels and what comes after it. We can observe this process in others, but only seeing it in our own minds can give us the understanding necessary to gradually let things be as they are.

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Filed under General, Mindfulness

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