Friday, December 4, 2009

Selfish vs. Selflessness

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I find myself coming back to the zen statement, "before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment: chop wood, carry water". Mindfulness does not change that you have identity (certainly communicating on these networks requires it); mindfulness allows one to perceive how identity or self-cherishing is suffering. What one does with it afterward may not change either, but you may find it easier to allow suffering to simply be and choose to act with compassion.

Avoiding suffering is as much an illusion as enjoying attachment; which is also suffering, but experienced differently and with less obvious consequences in the short term. When compared to the whole of life a passing enjoyment reveals itself as elusive and relative. I understand the point of meditation and mindfulness is perceiving reality as it is and releasing self, identity, attachment, suffering or any other illusion we hold, so our daily actions do not ripen as continual suffering and we may be enriched by living within compassion. By practicing meditation, one learns to observe the duality in all experience, which also allows one to act compassionately with mindfulness and with less prejudice or fear of retribution for our actions.

So, we view emotions that produce unpleasant experiences as negative, but the same emotions experienced with mindfulness can result in pleasant experiences if we act on them in a different way than we learned while growing up. Anger can be effective for positive change if we observe what triggers it within and learn to couple it with love as compassion before we act. Without contemplation we remain stuck between the emotion and the consequences of our actions; which leads to more challenging emotions like shame and embarrassment.  These compounded emotions seem to confirm the illusion that the original emotion is negative; when observed without judgment it is not.

Even actions remain relative and illusory, so when it comes to identity and self there is no single or correct way to be.  Judging is impossible because there is no measure or standard to judge against; there is only infinite variation. One might as well say you enjoy the variation of all human expression, as much as say you enjoy attachment, which observed with wisdom is suffering. Without action and as ideas in the mind, they are simply dual and opposing observations of the same notion of identity.

2 comments:

the sebaceous funk said...

I love the tone of this. It makes me relax and take in the information.

Nathan K said...

Thank you, Jon. Your comment helps me relax my hold on my guilty ego. I perhaps was too self-satisfied when I wrote this, but it has spoken with clarity to enough people that I can retire with humility intact.