A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I must be parted and separated from everyone and everything dear and agreeable to me.’
-From AN 5.57 (translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi)
ALSO, we must eventually be parted from everything repellent and disagreeable to us.
Whether we like or dislike what is happening right now, it is sure to change and pass away. Remembering this fact can be a fruitful path of practice. If we look deeply into the activity of liking and not-liking as it arises in our hearts, we see that it is sometimes subtle and sometimes powerful, but it is always ephemeral.
If we feel intense love for someone, fixating on our feeling of love actually diverts our attention from the beloved. When strong anger or disgust overtakes our mind, if we fixate on that feeling, whatever it was that stimulated it may change without our noticing. Sayadaw U Tejaniya recommended tracking our liking and not-liking continuously because if we attend to the mercurial nature of our preferences we start to see that although they occupy a central place in our minds, they have no substance, no durability.
Sometimes we call memories to mind to re-experience the associated feeling. Do we know when we’re doing this? Is it a habit?
Strong feeling has its own attraction, whether it’s positive or negative; our ego enjoys both affirmation and a sense of righteous anger. We must discover for ourselves how insubstantial our own feelings are if we don’t want to be pushed around by them.
What could cause us to reduce our obsession with our own liking and not-liking? One possibility is knowing. The desire to understand our direct experience can provide the motivation to watch our preferences appear and disappear without our being swept away. When a boundless positive feeling is present, we can commit to it fully, including to it’s characteristic of rising and falling. When a powerful negative feeling comes up, we can breath in and out and observe how the feeling moves here and there without our directing it.
Moment to moment, we have the choice between fixating on our feelings and stepping back to observe their movements. Paradoxically, when we let our feelings come and go without our interference, we can experience and understand them more fully. Developing this skill can take us far towards strengthening a peaceful heart.