It is particularly fruitful to explore the relationship between the sense of being a separate self, someone or something separate from the surroundings, and the energies of attraction and aversion—how they depend on each other. By identifying ourselves as something—anything—we are trapped into this sense of being someone or something having experiences from which we are separate. Then our relationship to experience is always precarious: for things to be right, there always seems to be either something lacking or something extra we think we need to get rid of. This keeps us busy trying to manipulate our experience, to adjust our environment or the image we have of ourselves, staying on the run like the hamster on its wheel.
The Buddha called that the wheel of samsara. If we identify with the body or the mind, we must necessarily suffer some underlying anxiety, because we know that we cannot completely control either of them. Our body will fall sick, it is getting older all the time and eventually it will die. The mind is even more unreliable; we don’t even know what we will be thinking or feeling in two minutes’ time. And eventually the mind as we know it will also disintegrate. Our experiences, even those we wish to have, are not under our control either; they are changing, unreliable.
So if we think these are the only possibilities we have, we are engaged in a constant effort to keep things under control to at least the extent that we feel is good enough. And if everything we do not identify as ourselves is the world out there, we are constantly having to negotiate a precarious relationship to it. We are never quite one with it or truly separate from it, so we can never merge with and keep the good stuff” or feel safe from the “bad stuff”. But we keep on trying. There is no peace in doing so, and yet this seems to be the basic underlying structure that informs the way we create or interpret our realities.
This reflection by Ajahn Abhinando is from the article, Awareness and Desire, p. 9.