Chapter 22. Disidentification from attachment and aversion

In the meditation for January 27 in A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh says,

"You can't fight the ego. Accept the ego, and let it go on. This understanding will gradually push the ego back."

In the meditation for February 24, he says,

"Fighting the ego, the mind, is precisely what the ego wants. You cannot fight the mind. You cannot suppress the ego. Fighting, resisting, controlling it is an impossible action. What is really needed is a negative or feminine action. That is to yield, to allow things to be as they are."

In the meditation for March 6, he says,

"Thoughts just witnessed get cut off for the simple reason that there is no comparing, no judging, no decision making."

On p. 125 of I Am That (1984), Nisargadatta says,

"Be conscious of yourself, watch your mind, give it your full attention. Donít look for quick results; there may be none within your noticing. Unknown to you, your psyche will undergo a change; there will be more clarity in your thinking, charity in your feeling, purity in your behavior. You need not aim at these ó you will witness the change all the same. For, what you are now is the result of inattention and what you become will be the fruit of attention."

Nonduality is the teaching that separation is an illusion (see Sections 10.1, 14.3) and that our true nature is pure Awareness (Section 9.3). Suffering is a reminder for us to see this. Whenever we suffer for any reason, it is because we are identifying as a separate self rather than realizing our true nature. Whenever we think we are separate, it is because there is attachment or aversion to a thought, feeling, emotion, sensation, or self-image. This is the "mine" property of the ego (see Section 11.5). Thus, it is attachment/aversion that is the problem, not the thought, feeling, emotion, or sensation itself.

Attachment and aversion to suffering are such a basic part of our personality that keeping them seems safer than losing them. For example, attachment/aversion to stoicism, sadness, fear, anger, or hatred may make us feel alive, but we pay dearly for them in suffering and unhappiness. Until we realize that emptiness is fullness, losing our suffering can seem to be too great a price to pay for peace and contentment.

Question: If losing your attachment/aversion to anger and resentment means acceptance of yourself, are you ready to let them go? If it even means acceptance of those you dislike or have an aversion to, are you still ready to let them go?
Question: Do you see any fallacy in the common Christian teaching entreaty to "Love the person but hate the sinner".

In Buddhism, much importance is placed on the practice of mindfulness, which is one of the eight practices in the Noble Eightfold Path (see Section 14.5). Mindfulness, or conscious attention, allows us to become aware of our attachments and aversions, thereby allowing disidentification to occur spontaneously. Closely related to mindfulness is compassion for ourselves, which is to be aware of our own suffering and to yearn for it to end (see Section 16.2).

On p. 49 of Elements of Buddhism (1990), John Snelling says,

"In order to live skillfully, in harmony with the dynamic Universe, it is essential to accept the reality of change and impermanence. The wise person therefore travels lightly, with a minimum of clutter, maintaining the proverbial "open mind" in all situations, for he or she knows that tomorrow's reality will not be the same as today's. He or she will also have learned the divine art of letting go--which means not being attached to people and possessions and situations, but rather, when the time for parting comes, allowing that to happen graciously."

However, in the meditation for July 3 in A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh warns us that,

"Wanting to let go and the letting go are two different things. The letting go will happen only when you're not wanting to let go."

The first step in mindfulness practice is to become clearly aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. First, we ask, What am I feeling in my body?, and then look for the body sensations. We focus on them and feel them as clearly as possible from the inside. They may be anywhere in the body, but are most often in the abdomen, solar plexus, chest, face, forehead, or eyes. For example, we may feel anger as tightness in the solar plexus or chest, with flushing in the face, eyes, or forehead. We may feel anxiety as tightness in the abdomen, solar plexus, or chest. We may feel sadness as heaviness in the chest with tears welling up in the eyes. At first, it may be difficult to distinguish and identify the different sensations, but it will become easier with practice.

Now we look for the memories and imaginations behind these sensations. These might be memories and imaginations of sadness, grief, fear, loss, hurt, rejection, loneliness, abandonment, desolation, or of any other experiences of suffering. In addition, there are probably beliefs that are hidden from our conscious minds but that form the foundation of much of our suffering. Because we are not usually conscious of hidden beliefs, it is helpful, even necessary, to have a therapist or counselor assist us in this process.

Hidden beliefs are usually felt as body sensations which arise in reaction to a stimulus (see Section 5.15). Usually they are felt rather than cognized. Therefore, if we are to become aware of these beliefs, mindfulness of body sensations is essential. Hidden or not, all of our beliefs form part of our conditioning.

Some examples of hidden beliefs that can generate enormous suffering are, "I don't deserve to be loved", "I" don't deserve to be successful", "I don't deserve to have good things happen to me", "I don't deserve to exist". We might think that we could not be attached to such "absurd" beliefs (see Section 16.2), but if the belief is hidden, so is the attachment to it. Yet, if we are to become disidentified from them, they must become conscious.

Whenever there is suffering, there is attachment/aversion, which is identification (see Chapter 21). Thus, the presence of suffering can be the first sign of it. For example, whenever we suffer from sadness, we notice the body sensations of sadness, and we see whether sadness is part of our identity, e.g., "Am I a sad person?". Then we become aware of the hidden beliefs behind the sadness, e.g., "I don't deserve to be loved".

Now, we ask, "What am I clinging to or resisting?", then we look. When we see our attachments/aversions clearly, they weaken and our suffering spontaneously decreases. We may need to see our attachments/aversions clearly many times before true disidentification occurs. Seeing them clearly is not the same thing as giving them up. Giving them up is an attempt by the ego to solve a problem by pretending to let go of it while still clinging to it. However, true letting go cannot be done by the ego, and when it happens, it leaves no suffering behind.

More examples of attachment/aversion and disidentification from them are as follows: Whenever we suffer from anguish at being "wrong", we notice the body sensations of anguish and we see whether we are attached to being "right" because we have a fear of being "wrong". Whenever we suffer from pride or arrogance, we notice the body sensations of self-righteousness and see whether we have a fear of being "guilty" or "worthless". Whenever we suffer from a judging thought, we notice the felt sense of it, and see whether we are clinging to it because of our own fear of being judged. Whenever we suffer from anger, we notice our clinging to it and see whether we have a hidden belief that we are weak. Whenever we suffer from hatred, we notice our attachment to it, and see whether it stems from a hidden belief that we are inferior. Whenever we suffer from guilt, we see whether we have an attachment to it, or whether it comes from a hidden attachment to doing the "wrong" thing. The same practice works for any kind of suffering, including attachment/aversion to craving, lust, fear, anxiety, envy, jealousy, regret, or self-condemnation.

Whenever we find attachment or aversion, we bring clarity to it by naming it. For example, when we notice sadness, we look for an attachment/aversion to it and name it: "That's attachment/aversion to sadness".

Exercises: Can you focus on your attachment/aversion to sadness rather than on the sadness itself? Can you focus on your attachment/aversion to judging rather than on the judging itself? Can you focus on your attachment/aversion to anger rather than on the anger itself? Can you focus on your attachment/aversion to hatred rather than on the hatred itself?  What happens to your attachments/aversions when you just notice them and name them?

We can cultivate forgiveness through a practice of loving-kindness (see Section 24.2). But, if the practice merely covers up our unforgiveness, we are still not free. Nondualistically, forgiveness is the absence of attachment to resentment or anger rather than being something we do. Therefore, a nondualistic forgiveness practice is to simply become aware of our attachment to unforgiveness. The most important one to forgive is oneself because it is impossible to forgive another without forgiving oneself.

Exercises: Whenever you are feeling regret, guilt, or shame, where in the body do you feel them? Notice whether attachment/aversion to them are also present. If they are, where is the felt sense of them? What happens to attachment/aversion if you just notice it and name it?
Exercises: Think of somebody for whom you feel anger, resentment, or aversion. Now look for an attachment to these feelings and the felt sense of the attachment. What happens to the attachment and its felt sense if you just notice it and name it?

Gratitude is similar to forgiveness because both are dualistically opposite to resentment or indifference. We can cultivate gratitude through a practice of loving kindness (see Section 24.2). However, just as nondualistic forgiveness is the absence of attachment to unforgiveness, nondualistic gratitude is the absence of attachment to ingratitude. Therefore, a nondualistic gratitude practice is to notice our attachment to ingratitude and to name it.

Exercise: Think of a situation in which you feel resentment. It need not be directed towards a specific person or persons--it could be towards the world, or life itself. Where in the body do you feel it? Now look for an attachment to it and the felt sense of the attachment. What happens to the attachment and its felt sense if you just notice it and name it?

Similarly, we may think of trust as a belief that things will somehow work out in our favor. Desire and acting on a desire are natural and cannot be avoided (see Section 21.3) but attachment to an outcome causes suffering because outcomes are unpredictable. We can trust only what does not change and the only thing that does not change is Awareness. Therefore, nondualistic trust, which is trust in Awareness, causes no suffering. We may desire something and act on that desire, but there will be no attachment to an outcome if trust in Awareness is present. We reinforce our experience of trust in Awareness whenever we notice an attachment to an outcome and see that if we trust Awareness, there is no suffering.

Question: Do you always trust your speech and actions to be appropriate to the present moment? If you don't, does attachment to an outcome cause you to hesitate or equivocate? What is your experience if you just trust Awareness?
Exercise: See for yourself that you cannot trust anything in the world because it all changes. Now see for yourself that you can always trust Awareness because it never changes. What is your experience now?

A self-image consists of a pair of dual opposites, the image of what we want to be plus the image of what we don't want to be. Attachment/aversion to a self-image always leads to suffering because it limits the awareness of our true nature.

Exercise: What self-image are you attached to, and which one do you resist? (For example, if there is attachment to an image of being right, there is always aversion to an image of being wrong.) Notice and name the attachment/aversion and see if your suffering is affected.

As long as there is identification as an individual, there will be attachment/aversion to a self-image (see Chapter 21). On the other hand, when we see that we are pure Awareness, we are not identifying with any kind of image because pure Awareness is not an image. Clearly seeing that we are pure Awareness rather than any object or image is a definition of enlightenment.

This page last updated August 6, 2010.
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