As long as you’re on the path, you have to hold on to things. Hold on to your strategies. It’s simply a matter of replacing unskillful ones with more skillful ones and being very clear about what your choices are.
When you think about yourself, learn to think about it as a process, something you do, something you make. It is a whole series of strategies. One of the reasons why the mind is so difficult to train is because we have so many different strategies, in other words, a lot of different selves. Many times it seems you train one and another one starts getting into the act.
This is why meditation doesn’t follow a nice, clear, linear progression. It goes up and down, up and down because there are lots of little selves in there that have to be trained. But you find after a while there is a finite number. The more you can get the mind to settle and identify with a state of concentration, the more it helps bring a lot of those different little selves in line where you can pick them off, one by one by one.
But until you’re done with the job, you’re going to have to hold on to something. So try to hold on to this state of concentration. As the Buddha said, it’s a harmless pleasure, a blameless pleasure. It puts you in the position where you can see things really clearly in the mind. That’s why it’s the central part of the path.
If you’re going to hold on, hold on here. You’re on a raft crossing over a stream. Don’t let go before you’ve reached the other bank. Don’t let anybody tell you that the really skillful practitioners are the ones who can jump off the raft in the middle of the stream. Just hold on right here. This is the attachment that’s actually helpful. Not every form of attachment, not every form of desire is a problem. There are skillful attachments and unskillful ones.
Ajahn Maha Boowa gives the analogy of climbing a ladder. Before you let go of a lower rung, you have to have a higher rung that you’re going to hold on to. Once you’re holding on firmly there, then you can let go of the lower rung and hang on to the higher one. And on up the ladder.
Ultimately, you get up on the roof and then you can let go of the ladder. But don’t let go before you’ve reached the goal.
Take this ingrain habit you have of latching on to things and put it to good use.
This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is adapted from the talk, Skillful Attachments, September 26, 2005.