Don’t get entangled
With what you long for or dislike.
Not seeing what you long for is suffering;
So also is seeing what you dislike.
Therefore, do not turn anything
Into something longed for,
For then it’s dreadful to lose.
Without longing or dislike,
No bonds exist. (translated by Gil Fronsdal)
How much of our time do we spend wishing we had something we don’t have or wishing we didn’t have something we do have? This common entanglement is front and center in these two verses.
What’s the alternative to wishing for something to come or go away? Simply being in the present, experiencing what we’re experiencing with our full attention, continuously, noticing how it changes and not taking it personally. Often we take life as a long stream of rewards and punishments, but if we observe closely, we can see that’s not what’s actually happening. Everything we encounter comes into being based on a complex structure of causes and conditions, most of which have little or nothing to do with our worthiness or unworthiness, our likes and dislikes, our plans and wishes. If we can take a half-step back and appreciate this framework, our understanding will deepen; we will recognize when we’re being pushed around by our desires and aversions and when we’re not.
Our innate greed and resistance create the bonds that confine us and make us feel dissatisfied. We can’t make our greed and hatred disappear, we can only plant our attention on the present and encourage their opposites to take root. We can accept our experience, appreciate it, learn from it, and feel grateful for it. It is a wholesome diversionary tactic that can become a way of life, gradually loosening the ties that bind us and allowing us to feel both freer and steadier within ourselves.