As human beings, we each have a propensity for wanting to become a distinct somebody. This propensity shows itself almost constantly, both in formal practice and in our ordinary, day-to-day activities. It has to do with the hopeless search for worldly security and stability. Most people spend their whole lives on that search, but instead of finding security and stability, what they get is a sense of isolation—not really attuning to themselves or to the world around them. If we’re not careful, this can be a danger for us here, as well.
A prime example is the way we relate to our assigned duties and chores. We become the somebody who manages the book distribution, or the somebody who looks after the computers, or the somebody who does the trash, or whatever. We hone in on the particular thing we’re doing, and then conjure up a sense of ourselves as being the somebody who does that thing. Then it’s easy to think: Alright, I have my task. I don’t have to do anything more than that. I don’t have to be concerned anymore with what needs to be done outside of my job. I’m safe and secure; things are okay.
That sort of thinking blocks us from developing mindfulness and attentiveness in huge areas of our lives—the world we’re in and what’s happening around us. Thinking like that can cause us to feel isolated. We set ourselves apart from the community, weakening our connection with all the other somebodies here who are doing other things that need to be done.
To avoid these dangers, rather than being somebodies who do only what we’re assigned, we can instead be attentive to whatever might need doing. We can ask ourselves: How can I help? How can I support the other people around me? What would be of service? When everyone reflects in that way, and acts accordingly, the whole community can enjoy a sense of well-being and happiness, and we may personally learn that there’s no real need to make ourselves into somebodies at all.
This reflection is from the newly released two part collection of Dhamma Reflections: