Note to readers: I want to take a moment and let you know how much I deeply appreciate every one of you. Each week, I am blown away by your comments – your thoughtfulness, your good intentions, your willingness to face the hard questions in your lives and celebrate your insights and realizations. Each person’s comment is a source of inspiration to everyone else who reads it. We are a true community, joined heart to heart. Thank you.
“You must choose between your attachments and happiness.”
I am not a barfly, but I was enjoying a happy hour drink last week in a lively establishment. My companion struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to him, and it was amazing to see what happened. Somehow they got on the topic of health care, and you could see her whole demeanor change. Her eyes went steely, her mouth tight, and she went off on the ills of the health care system. Obviously, he had hit a chord in her.
I saw right before me the power of holding a strong opinion. I can only imagine what it felt like to be her in that moment.
Are Your Views Making You Suffer?
In the last two posts, we have been exploring this most essential topic of attachment. First, we saw how attachment has to do with clinging to expectations of how we want things to be. Then, we went directly into the core of the experience of attachment to befriend the underlying fear and loss. Today, we explore attachment to views, beliefs, judgments, and opinions.
Not that there is anything wrong with being attached to our views. My interest always is in happiness and freedom. If your views bring you happiness, then there is no reason to question them. But if the attachment to a certain way of thinking leaves you scared, stressed, irritated, or tense, then you are faced with a choice: hold on to your views or question them.
For most of us, our views, beliefs, judgments, and opinions run deep. Some of them are so subtle that we don’t even know they exist – until they are confronted. I will never forget the first time I arrived in Kathmandu, also my first time in Asia. For those initial hours, I was completely overwhelmed, almost unable to take in the sights, smells, and sounds that were so different from anything I had ever experienced. Prior to that time, I had no idea how entrenched some of my beliefs were.
We saw in the last post that attachment is about being bound and tied to. When we are attached to ideas, our minds are sticky. We are looking at the world through a filter that judges experience as good or bad, acceptable or not. We bring our inner edges to the flow of life that is happening regardless of our beliefs about it. And it simply doesn’t feel very good.
The Choice to Let Go
Maybe you realize that some of your views don’t serve you. They cause separation, unhappiness, and inner division. Even so, we hold on tight, not really wanting to relinquish these treasured concepts that define our reality. Maybe you think the oil spill shouldn’t have happened or that terrorists should know better.
Instead, can you let your heart break with the outrage and sorrow that is driving these views.
If your sense of dissatisfaction is great enough, if you long for lasting happiness, if you know in your heart that these beliefs don’t bring you peace, then you are ready for an authentic exploration of them.
Happiness is Not in the Thinking Mind
All of these ideas – beliefs, judgments, views, opinions, expectations – are products of the thinking mind. When we take them to be true, we are clamping down on the free flow of life. We could certainly investigate each one and discover that we are believing something that is not absolutely true, that each contains a fallacy and an equally plausible alternative.
But why not take the short cut?
Freedom cannot be found in the thinking mind. It cannot be figured out or analyzed. Anything we think is ultimately not going to take us to happiness. More thoughts, more belief systems – more thinking.
If happiness cannot be found in our thoughts, where is it? In a completely open mind, in a mind that doesn’t cling or grasp, in a mind so relaxed and spacious that no effort is expended to think, judge, or believe. This unattached mind is totally aligned with reality. It knows no limits and excludes nothing. It is friendly, loving, and benign.
In a mind this open, beliefs, views, and opinions are like clouds in a vast sky; hoping, wishing, and expecting just dots on a panoramic landscape.
Imagine for a moment that you were not at all attached to any views or beliefs. You don’t presume anything will be a certain way. You don’t define yourself or others by any constructs. Opinions or judgments might float into your mind, but they appear and disappear effortlessly. Can you get a sense of this degree of openness? So expansive. Anything could happen, and you receive rather than react. Your heart overflows as separation comes to an end.
If you give yourself a rest and relax away from thinking, just for a moment, here are some things you might notice:
- A feeling of expansion
- An open, tingly feeling in your heart
- A sense of well being
In an open mind, there is no resistance to anything, nothing is out of order, nothing inappropriate or wrong. Thoughts are seen, but we don’t attach to them. They come and go of their own accord and they are not a problem when they arrive.
This is the possibility for all of us: to realize that the views, opinions, beliefs, stories we take to be true are simply phenomena that arise and pass on. Do you want to be happy? Allow your mind-heart to open endlessly.
What views do you hold closely? What does it feel like? What is it like to try to let go of beliefs and views we take for granted? I’d love to hear…