This view we have of the world is often biased, skewed from the standpoint of "me, mine, I." From this perspective, is it possible to experience another's feelings, understand their intentions, be cognizant of their feelings? In what scenarios are a difficult person's behaviors relatable when viewed from this self? In the search for happiness, my actions are always the best. They make logical sense to me, otherwise I would not act them out. Those that cause friction during this endeavor are deemed irrational, out of touch, ignorant, an enemy. How would your actions change if it were possible to generate compassion for the person causing your anger? If you could view yourself from the opposite side, would you feel as though you were the one being irrational? It is natural for us to feel that our own actions are correct, proper. But why, then, are the actions of others labeled absurd? Aren't we all chasing the same dream; happiness? Or has the difficult person entered your life solely to cause frustration?
How would a world viewed from our own perspective be; happy, sad, satisfactory, treacherous? Many people live this one dimensional existence and shift back and forth from these emotions, sometimes in regards to the same person. In a world that is always being judged on the basis of how others relate to ME, it is increasingly difficult to generate compassion. This habit roots deeper each time it is allowed to be fulfilled creating a barrier difficult to over come or being jaded to the point of not caring to acknowledge the misunderstanding. An attachment to the self exacerbates suffering because it prevents us from seeing the world neutrally. Even though it is viewed as the vessel to transport us toward happiness, using the self as a guide falsely leads us to destructive situations.
No matter your age, income, quality of health, education level, has this person always been the same? If so, wouldn't you still be a baby; maybe you wouldn't have gained weight; that hair that you misplaced, if you were a permanent thing, why has it disappeared? The person you are right now, is it the same as a moment ago, years ago; will it be the same in the next breath, sometime in the future?
As we begin to sculpt a true perception of the world- that everything is impermanent- we can begin to deconstruct the layers of attachment. No, this is not nihilism. Our actions have real outcomes, positive or negative, felt now or sometime in the future. This is what makes life meaningful. But as impermanence is realized, cravings and aversions drift away. A realization of the fleeting reality of craving and aversion is cleansing, giving way to unbiased responses to stimuli. Happiness, being clear headed in every setting becomes the standard because a realization that the emotions you feel are chosen by you. Having full control over how you feel is empowering. Decisions can be made without attachment. I no longer become agitated when the car cuts ME off; I no longer deceive others in pursuit of MY happiness. These emotional choices become less polarized. Humility followed by tranquility and peacefullness provide a trustworthy anchor for all interactions. After seeing the true nature of things- their impermanence- chasing satisfactory feelings or running from unsavory experiences no longer consumes you. You can meet your enemy with patience, see satisfaction as fleeting. This middle way provides a clairvoyant mind from which to solve problems, be a productive employee, a quality companion.
"Visualize a friend, a person you have difficulty with, and a stranger. Ask yourself, "Why do I feel attachment for my friend?" Listen to the reasons your mind gives. Then ask, "Why do I have aversion toward the difficult person?" Listen to the reasons your mind gives. Finally, explore, "Why am I apathetic toward the stranger?"
What word do you keep hearing in all these reasons? On what basis does your mind consider someone good, bad, or neutral? Is it realistic to judge others based on how they relate to "ME"? Are others really good, bad, or neutral from their own side, or is it your mind that is categorizing them as such? How would others appear to you if you stopped discriminating them based on your own selfish opinions, needs, and wants? Why is it possible that the relationships of friend, difficult person, and stranger constantly change?"
This struggle is vivid every moment in these new surroundings. Frustration boils because I do not understand the culture and language completely, and people are not acting the way I want them to. I avert traveling past a few shops because the attached bars are always patronized. Drunkards annoyingly yell toward the road as the white man passes by. I become irritable when the child repeats, verbatim, the same words even though I repeat, verbatim, how incoherent his words are. Sentences I create are delivered with poetic fluidity in my mind's ear. Why do they not understand? Every Sunday, I am invited to church. How absurd are people that they do not realize their multi-hour masses make no sense, provide no enlightenment? Why does the mouse decide to scavenge in the hut during my sleep? Why doesn't it realize this annoyance? The dam goats- stay out of my toilet! No, it is not a cozy retreat for you.
As I reflect upon these interactions, I realize each one is comsumed from the viewpoint of ME. This attachment causes irritability. I become less effective in stressful scenarios because of it. The ability to integrate is capped. A true understanding is missed and fully connecting with the community is limited whenever I allow this attachment to take hold.
Mindful practice, though, helps me detach from this perspective. A truly altruistic approach to solving problems and interacting with difficult people settles in. Cravings of perfection fade. Attachment to material things dwindles.
Imagine if we all lived with this understanding. How would the world look? Would relationships with others be more fulfilling?
For me, a continued attachment to my 'self' only delays bonding with the community. Developing unfettered lovingkindness is the key to serving others, and through that, I will serve myself.
*Equanimity Exercise extracted from The Gradual Path to Enlightenment - Outline by Thubten Chodron. Follow the link from the exercise's heading to learn more.