Thursday, October 28, 2010

Illusion is not the Self

Rem Koolhaas building at IIT, Chicago, IL

It seems to take a very long time to let go of the basic framework that every little thing I think or feel is real and important. Yet I can sense that this shift is happening. It comes forward when I can laugh at the way I feel aggravated in my interactions with the guy from the garage when he disrespects my schedule and commitments. It appears as I kneel in happy confusion in the midst of a challenging yoga class when the teacher has called for an asana that is totally incomprehensible to my tired brain-body connection. It slips up to the surface listening to my sister on the phone creating analogies for herself to explain my experiences. No hard feelings, no reruns, no regrets or disappointment, no shame attaches to the moment.

Why is it so hard to let this aspect of self-importance go? Perhaps my "Western" cultural orientation is part of the gripping on this, that deeply embedded concept that the defining structures of intelligence and self respect require assigning importance to the fleeting and impermanent. Several people have expressed to me that they do not want to live into an old age when they can no longer "be themselves." I see this as gripping at the control mechanisms that are probably operating in them all the time to "be themselves" as a construction defined by these same ideas, judging themselves as to their worthiness. Letting go of that grip will not change who they are, if they can accept who they are in the first place. The question of worthiness of self is a puzzle of endless pieces that will never be complete as long as we keep any piece clutched in our tight grip.

The yogic path has no guarantees, no warranty, no hierarchies of grace or benefit. Each moment offers the entirety of being present, and demands the entirety of being, a self that is not separated into bits. This is not some super-high-concentrated-focus-entirely-on-something state of being. In some quite absurd way, really anyone can accomplish this way of being if they can let go of the self-importance and criticisms, allow themselves to be open to the truth, and accept the impermanence of all the mental constructs. This sounds huge and maybe even scary. The fear is a part of the construct material that we can really just leave on the bench and simply walk a distance away. It isn't gone, it just doesn't have to be the puppeteer holding our strings. It can become another one of these lovely objects we can observe and appreciate. Fear helps us identify our attachments, among other things. It serves as a warning that there is something on the path to observe as we take our next steps.

No one has the blueprint that shows who I am supposed to be, or how this particular life of mine is meant to go. There is nothing I can do that is untrue to my self. I may feel preferences, even have strong opinions, and act with passion and conviction, but all of that can be turned in any direction and none of it is good or bad. Without the judgments, criticism, gripping of attachment, there is ease, some open spaces of freedom, even as I do something silly and give that mechanic more fodder for his attitudes. Perhaps my humor on the mat as I fail to pretzel into a "yoga pose" is supportive to someone else in the room, and I've long since learned not to tell my sister how to interpret her own thoughts! So I am "being myself" all the time, learning how this works, and living with a kind of spaciousness in everything.

1 comment:

  1. After writing this, I was reading Joseph Goldstein (The Experience of Insight: A Natural Unfolding") on the subway and was totally taken by this:
    "The Buddha often stressed the power and importance of generosity. Giving is the expression in action of non-greed in the mind. The whole spiritual path involves letting go, not grasping, not clinging, and generosity is the manifestation of that non-attachment."

    Is it a coincidence that I've been thinking so much about gratitude and generosity -- in fact spoke about generosity towards the self in my Tuesday evening class?