Sunday, August 1, 2010

Clinging to Aversion

During yesterday afternoon's sangha one of the participants came out with a phrase that I had never heard before. After a long sitting practice, during which we investigated the Three Characteristics of impermanence, dissatisfaction (or suffering), and the doctrine of "no self" (see 4/11/10 & 4/12/10 blogs), we were discussing how easy it is to become attached to wanting this moment to be different from the way it actually is. The sangha member mentioned that in those cases we were "clinging to our aversion."

Clinging and aversion are often considered to be the root actions that cause us to suffer. We want more of a pleasant experience, so we cling to it, experiencing dukkha, or dissatisfaction, when the pleasant thing ends. On the other side of the coin, when we are having an unpleasant experience, we want less of it and so we try to get rid of it. This results in more dukkha because we might not be able to change the situation, or it will change by itself into something we find even more aversive.

So we often find that, when we are in aversion to the way things, are we will cling very tightly to this position. The mind might scream at us, "No, dammit! I DO NOT want things to be like this!" Of course, all we need to do to reduce our dissatisfaction, and our suffering, would be to accept that this is the way things are and release our attachment to wanting things to be different.

Remember that this does not mean that we have to like the way things are, it just means that we have to recognize, as best we can, that this moment is like this. Right now, this moment must be this way and we have no choice in the matter. We may have a choice about the future, but for now, this moment is the way it is. Clinging to the notion that we want it to be otherwise will only perpetuate and increase a level of suffering that is already in motion.

Many people misunderstand the idea that we must accept this moment as it is. They may think I am suggesting that we simply give up trying, or that we cannot or should not do anything to change the situation. Legitimate human suffering, such as natural or man-made disasters, war, famine, poverty, oppression, abuse, and so forth, are some examples of situations that people should rightfully want to change. I am not suggesting that we stand by and allow a situation such as starvation to continue if there is something we can do to alleviate it. However, effective action can only occur when we first understand that this is the way it is right now. 

In our daily life, when we notice that we are clinging to our aversion toward the way things are, we only need to release our attachment to the aversion itself. We can still have our desire to change the situation, and we can still take action to remedy it. If, in that moment, there is nothing we can do to change things, then through our releasing of our attachment to a specific outcome, we can endure the situation with a lesser degree of dissatisfaction. Only through recognizing that things are the way they are, and then releasing attachment to our desire for things to be different, can we break the cycle of suffering in which we find ourselves stuck 

Once again I must repeat: We are not releasing the desire itself, we are only releasing the attachment to our desire that things be different. We can still have that desire, but now we hold it with an open hand and have come into a new relationship with it so that we might be able to see it in a new way. Then, and only then, do we have the ability to respond from the unpleasant situation rather than reacting to it.


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