Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Monkey Trap, Part 2

Yesterday, I introduced a teaching of the Buddha that said that suffering is caused by "desire that gives rise to a sense of self." This is pretty heavy stuff for a lot of people (if not everyone) and needs to be explored a bit further.

It could be argued that the three most destructive words in the English language are "I," "me," and "mine." One reason is that they cause us to identify (or I-dentify) with things that have nothing to do with us, and this identification causes suffering. Here is one of my favorite examples... Early one morning during meditation, my reverie (note the arising of self) was disturbed by the sound of a leaf blower a couple of doors down. This sound is one that I (self again) have always had strong aversion toward. The thoughts that arose were something like, "How dare that person disturb my meditation? Why is he bothering me?" These thoughts caused a great deal of anger to arise, and by golly - you guessed it - I was suffering.

The fact is that the sound I heard had nothing to do with me. The object and the person making the sound were not doing it to disturb my practice. And if we want to push this a little further, the sound I heard was not even a leaf blower, but just a sound that the mind had labeled as such. The mind then ran toward habitual ways of thinking about the experience, including the story that it had something to do with me.

Today, notice how personally you take everything that happens, and then step back a bit and see that these events have nothing to do with you. This is especially useful in dealing with automobile traffic situations. Acknowledge the stories the mind begins to tell about the situation, and especially the way emotions rise so quickly. Take note of how the mind creates whole scenarios about the other drivers that might be doing something that displeases us.

Release the tight fist of grasping (see yesterday's blog) and see if you can just let the entire situation be seen a spacious, non-judgmental awareness (see 11/13/09 blog). There may be judgment aplenty going on, just become aware of it as non-judgmentally as you can.

In the words of the Buddha from the Anattalakkhana Sutta:
Any material form...feeling...perception...mental formations...consciousness whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; gross or subtle; inferior or superior; far or near...is to be seen as it really is with wisdom as: "This is not mine. This is not my self. I am not this."

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