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My-making

adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
edited August 28 in Buddhism Basics

Whatever is not yours, let go of it.
Your letting go of it will be for your long-term welfare & happiness.
—MN 22

In the Pali Canon, the Buddha names two processes which comprise the delusion of selfhood: I-making and my-making. Whenever we think, “I am this,” or, “This is mine,” we set ourselves up to suffer.

I know this is Buddhism 101, but over the last few years I’ve found that actually practising not-self can feel quite inaccessible. I’ve used the meditation on elements within the body, seeing for myself how the air in my lungs is not distinct from the air outside, or feeling the presence of the earth element in my skeleton. During meditations like this, the Buddha tells us to reflect, “This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.” (SN 22.59) I’ve found this very effective during the meditation itself, but difficult to maintain off the cushion.

Recently It occurred to me that while I had experimented a little with I-making, I had never really experimented with my-making. The two are obviously related. If we truly possess something, it is under our control, which in the Buddha’s view is a necessary characteristic of anything that could accurately be called “self”.

In practice, however, I-making can be quite subtle and therefore difficult to notice and release, whereas my-making on the other hand is considerably easier to spot. The feeling of possessiveness is quite powerful. I sometimes feel it physically as a tug in my chest. This might happen whenever my housemate uses a steel spoon on my non-stick saucepan, or a cat pulls a thread out of my new jeans.

In the last few days, I’ve noticed that it’s possible to adopt a completely different attitude towards my possessions, by simply not regarding them as mine. I think of this as being the caretaker and not the owner of these things. A caretaker looks after things while they’re under her care, but doesn’t suffer any loss when they inevitably break or go missing. It’s important that a caretaker is still responsible—giving up my-making is not an excuse to give up all responsibility. She takes the best care of things that she can and even cherishes them while they last. But at the end of the day, they don’t belong to her.

Adopting this attitude has already brought me some peace of mind. I wonder if anyone here has used something similar. I’m interested to know, how do you practise not-self?

Thanks for reading—I know it’s a long one, but it’s been percolating for a few days now, and I wanted to do justice to the subject.

KeromeShoshinperson

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Adopting this attitude has already brought me some peace of mind. I wonder if anyone here has used something similar. I’m interested to know, how do you practise not-self?

    The remembrance/awareness of neti-neti
    <3

    How to implement?
    As thoughts/attachments/delusions of I Yam/feelings/opinions etc arise
    neti-neti (Not this, not this)

    Shoshin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited August 28

    @adamcrossley said:
    Adopting this attitude has already brought me some peace of mind. I wonder if anyone here has used something similar. I’m interested to know, how do you practise not-self?

    It puts me in mind of when I was moving house a few months ago. I was moving from my own flat with all my own furniture to a room in a furnished apartment which I am sharing, and so a lot of my things were going into storage. Now my opinion is that any event can be a teacher to us, and so I was using this event to experience a deep letting-go, of my furniture, my things, my crockery, my movie collection.

    All the things that we ‘own’, and especially the things we use every day, are subject to my-making, and when you move house you come face to face with a lot of uncertainty about your personal situation. That’s why it is usually said to be very stressful, a crisis. But at the same time it is a great opportunity for mindful observation, you can learn a lot about yourself from what it stirs up inside your mind.

    Similarly I found the various meditations pointing out to us that “we are not the body” to be very useful, for me this was probably the strongest identification. Things like ‘not beautiful’ meditation (asubha), things like identifying the 32 parts of the body, pointing out that like King Milinda’s question about the chariot there is no real self. I’ve found these meditations are good to come back to, because they weaken the association with the body, but as we spend so much time with the body and around the body we build the identification up again.

    I don’t really strongly identify with the mind. My experience of the mind is not that of a never-ending stream of thoughts, it is of a series of external events that trigger short cascades, sequences of ideas. My mind is otherwise quiet

    adamcrossleyShoshin
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited August 28

    I’ve found this very effective during the meditation itself, but difficult to maintain off the cushion.

    You can also deliberately practise the opposite ie. making everything me or mine and feel the stress. Your sports team loses, your country in a bad shape, your leaders screwing up everything. These things are clearly beyond your control but yet causes stress if you are identified with them.

    Moving closer, you realise than even your close relatives and grown-up children are not entirely under your control.

    Then your thoughts and feelings. Are you truly in control of them? The only choice you have is to either follow the train of thought(thus producing more and more thoughts) or just ignore it.

    Of course, not every thought can be ignored.

    Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other

    The practice of letting everything go is mainly when doing maranasati(death contemplation) or when one is actually dying. It is the ultimate challenge in the sense that everything is actually going, going, gone. In the end, there isn't anything that's yours including "your" life!

    Whatever is not yours, let go of it.
    Your letting go of it will be for your long-term welfare & happiness.
    —MN 22


    Ajahn Chah

    ShoshinpersonBunks
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @pegembara said:
    The practice of letting everything go is mainly when doing maranasati(death contemplation) or when one is actually dying. It is the ultimate challenge in the sense that everything is actually going, going, gone. In the end, there isn't anything that's yours including "your" life!

    Interesting to realise that in the end your life isn’t actually yours either. It’s only temporarily with you, you have to give it up when your time comes. In terms of being in control of something that means it’s certainly not wholly yours.

  • @Kerome said:
    It puts me in mind of when I was moving house a few months ago. I was moving from my own flat with all my own furniture to a room in a furnished apartment which I am sharing, and so a lot of my things were going into storage. Now my opinion is that any event can be a teacher to us, and so I was using this event to experience a deep letting-go, of my furniture, my things, my crockery, my movie collection.

    This is remarkably similar to my current situation actually. I hope you’re settled into your new home now. Things are still quite unsettled here. I have a great deal of uncertainty about my future work. The seemingly endless process of applying and being rejected... does wonders for one’s self esteem.

    But as you say, not even this life is truly mine. If I’m only the caretaker of my possessions, perhaps I’m only the hitch-hiker of my life. Let’s see how far this ride can take me. Reminds me of a Gary Snyder poem. I’ll quote the ending:

    Full moon was October second this year,
    I ate a mooncake, slept out on the deck
    white light beaming through the black boughs of the pine
    owl hoots and rattling antlers,
    Castor and Pollux rising strong
    —it’s good to know that the Pole Star drifts!
    that even our present night sky slips away,
    not that I’ll see it.
    Or maybe I will, much later,
    some far time walking the spirit path in the sky,
    that long walk of spirits—where you fall right back into the
    “narrow painful passageway of the Bardo”
    squeeze your little skull
    and there you are again

    waiting for your ride

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47752/waiting-for-a-ride

    Jeffreylobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    This is remarkably similar to my current situation actually. I hope you’re settled into your new home now. Things are still quite unsettled here. I have a great deal of uncertainty about my future work. The seemingly endless process of applying and being rejected... does wonders for one’s self esteem.

    I’m reasonably settled now, thanks. It wasn’t always easy, even looking mindfully at the process there was still some stress. So I can understand what you are going through, it’s not exactly restful and conducive to ease. I hope you’re coping alright.

    It’s curious how some of the stress seems to come from outside yourself. To truly be relaxed seems to require an extended time in a peaceful space, I wonder how the Buddha’s wandering monks managed it those many years ago in the Ganges basin.

  • LionduckLionduck Veteran
    edited August 30

    As human beings, we all have the perception of "I". when we consciously seek to "lose" the "I", we can not. Our awareness of "I" is too great. When we (you - I) are not trying, such as when fully absorbed in an activity or a moment, the awareness of "I" vanishes. at that moment, there is no "I", there is no other. There is only the moment. in that moment the "I" and the environment, the "other" are one entity, there is nothing else. there is no in or out. There only is. When you have been there, you, I we know. And you, I we know the wonder. but it can only be repeated, experienced, by surrendering to the moment without effort.

    Peace to all

    lobster
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
    edited August 30

    it can only be repeated, experienced, by surrendering to the moment without effort.

    I agree with you, @Lionduck. When you’re mindfully absorbed in the present moment, the “I” dissolves. But the Buddha also taught that I-making and my-making can be released incrementally, by examining one’s experience and releasing them as and when they arise.

    And I suppose I started this thread because I’m having much less difficulty with my-making. It might be a good starting point for one’s practice of not-self.

    @Kerome said:
    To truly be relaxed seems to require an extended time in a peaceful space, I wonder how the Buddha’s wandering monks managed it those many years ago in the Ganges basin.

    It’s true. They seem to have spent a lot of time sitting under trees. Perhaps that was stabilising in itself:

    Look at the tree in the garden. An oak tree is an oak tree, and that is all it has to do. Every time we look at it, we feel stable and confident.

    —Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    And I suppose I started this thread because I’m having much less difficulty with my-making. It might be a good starting point for one’s practice of not-self.

    But if you had to move house every time you wanted to confront your my-making, it would be quite a difficult practice. Wandering monks have more opportunities for those kinds of practices, since every morning they leave behind the space that was home for a night. That seems either quite burdensome or very free, depending on how you look at it.

    Confronting my-making is not easy to do... i’ve not yet come across a good meditation for it.

    Although I did just have a flash of insight, that my-making and desire are closely related. If you see a beautiful car, and you feel a desire for it, does that not mean you just tried to make it yours in your mind?

    adamcrossley
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran
    edited August 30

    @Kerome said:
    Confronting my-making is not easy to do... i’ve not yet come across a good meditation for it.

    Yeah, I can’t think of any either. But in daily life I do find it easier to spot than I-making. The feeling that accompanies a moment of possessiveness is quite strong in my experience, even physical.

    Although I did just have a flash of insight, that my-making and desire are closely related. If you see a beautiful car, and you feel a desire for it, does that not mean you just tried to make it yours in your mind?

    Yes, that’s true! It’s the illusion that one’s identity is dependent on having certain material things, whether you own them already or not. That’s a good insight, thank you.

  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    from the perspective of daozen,being at the center,of everything and nothing there is peace.
    wu we.

    theravada technique,change habit,less cling and be.same stuff. the basis the reason to share and care to be less possesive in things and self.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    But in daily life I do find it easier to spot than I-making.

    After reading that interview with Jim Carrey, perhaps method acting might be a way into confronting I-making. It certainly seems to have worked for him...

  • Perhaps the thinking should be focused not upon not "losing" the self so much as not fixating upon the self. self does not disappear. When you, I, we blend or meld with the emviromnent/nature, the self is not centered upon the self. it is reality of the unity of self and the moment/environment. Atheletes call it the Zone, Priests have called it the Surrendering or the Yielding. I call it the Unity. The self has not vanished. Ther is no surrender, but rather an opened up to embrace and be embraced by the totality to become seamless with the moment, the environment, the Universe both in the reality which is and in the perception arising from the self. it is as grand, glorious and mundane as the Sunrise, as the curiosity of a child.

    Peace to all

    Shoshinadamcrossleylobster
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