Who, me?

Ajahn Viradhammo from Buddhadharma (Spring 2015 issue):
What does attachment really mean? Attachment is always bound up with a sense of “I”. Letting go is an acceptance of this moment the way it is. This is something we have to discover. This is the path of insight.

“This moment the way it is” – what does that mean? There are physical characteristics (temperature, movement, sights or sounds) and there are feelings (happy, sad, bored, interested, etc.). Do we have to own these things for them to be true, to be real? Do they have to be ours? Or can they just be present? Can we see that they come and go according to their own rhythms, and not according to our wishes? Consider this radical possibility: imagine not claiming even our own experience as “mine”.

By claiming things and experiences, we separate ourselves in a tiny, unique, fragile and imaginary world. The more we can let go of ownership and just allow experience to happen, the more fluid and pain-free our time can be. Desire can be desire rather than “my desire”; fear can be fear rather than “my fear”.

How can we recognize and release our attachments? One clue is that whenever we feel resistant to or anxious about what’s happening, there is clinging at the base of it. When our love for someone is combined with jealousy or a need for specific words or acts; when we want an event (or ourselves) to be perfect; when we cling to unrealistic dreams – these are just a few situations in which we create our own suffering.

One reason anger is such a powerful and (somehow) attractive emotion is that anger fuels the sense of “I”. When we are filled with righteous indignation, we are in the grip of a feeling of power, and we are thinking of no one but ourselves.

Recently, I attended the memorial service for a member of my family. There was sadness, but also joy at remembering a life in the company of other people. The sadness felt soft and natural; there was no sense of “it shouldn’t be like this”, at least for me. Perhaps this is a key — acceptance of things as they are, relaxing into what’s present in each moment. It requires abandoning the judging perspective and taking a broader view.

Every time we think that our problem is “out there” rather than “in here”, we create a bigger web of suffering for ourselves. Pain and its remedy are both within our own hearts.

3 Comments

Filed under Causes and results, Mindfulness

3 responses to “Who, me?

  1. Charles

    Do we have to own these things for them to be true, to be real? Do they have to be ours? Or can they just be present? Can we see that they come and go according to their own rhythms, and not according to our wishes? Consider this radical possibility: imagine not claiming even our own experience as “mine”…. Desire can be desire rather than “my desire”; fear can be fear rather than “my fear”.

    Thank you for another superb and compassionate, yet grounding, essay. Pertinent reminders with an objective tone at just the right moment.

    How odd that the skilful arrangement of pixels on a screen can so readily revamp another’s interior world.

    Namaste, Gassho, Metta, Mangalam to you.

    Charles

  2. Catherine B

    “resistant to or anxious about”: Recently I was asked, how do you know when you are selfing, me-ing and my-ing? Two old-fashioned words came to mind. When we are fretting and hankering, that’s the “Who, me?” arising.

  3. Melissa Shaw-Smith

    Now that’s what I call conscious uncoupling. Thank you for highlighting this sound advice.

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