Connection and Alienation

อาจารย์ วีรธัมโม

Connection and Alienation

As you practice being aware of objects (such as moods) from the time they arise until the time they pass away, you develop insight. You begin to realize that it’s not pleasant to attach to objects that are constantly changing. So you stop holding on to them. When you stop attaching to these objects, they lose their capacity to overwhelm you. For instance, you might be very inspired by something, such as a heroic story of adversity, a profound and moving insight, or a generous gesture from a stranger. You feel that inspiration, but you also realize that it’s only a movement through consciousness, something that arises and ceases. So while we can still appreciate inspiration, we don’t attach to it. We don’t let it become something that drags us into disappointment as the emotional charge of that initially pleasant feeling inevitably peters out. Inspiration doesn’t drag us into disappointment because we’re now connected to something deeper: a clear understanding that anything that comes also goes.

Practicing awareness therefore means staying connected to the way things are. So we ask ourselves, “How do I stay connected to the way things are?” This is a helpful way to ponder our practice because it doesn’t require that we have a certain quality of experience. In other words, staying connected to the way things are doesn’t mean that we always need to be happy or compassionate or like everything that’s going on. If we simply stay connected to the way things are, there isn’t any kind of qualitative judgment about who we are or what we should be experiencing. That’s a relief, isn’t it?

If we keep practicing in this way, we have the potential to connect to a sense of wonder. But this may not always seem possible, especially when we’re in the midst of experiencing something very uncomfortable. However, if we just stay with the way things actually are, we begin to detach from our perceptions about the way things should be. When we detach from our perceptions about the way things should be, that whole egotistical side of us that has the strong sense of “self and other” is being put aside. That’s when we can begin to feel a sense of wonder as we connect in a more vivid, direct, and heartfelt way to the world around us.

But we can’t just create wonder by desiring it, can we? Go out there and create wonder! If we think to ourselves, “I’m going to create wonder,” we can’t do it because it doesn’t work that way. And we can’t generate a sense of wonder by trying to get rid of things. For instance, we don’t want negative states of mind, so we try to get rid of them. When we do that, we block our innate capacity for wonder and connection, which are totally accepting. In fact, they go against the grain of the desire to reject or get rid of something. It’s desire that creates alienation and takes us away from the way things are. On the other hand, connection—or the recognition and acceptance of things however they are, attractive or unattractive, appealing or unappealing—grounds us in the reality of the way things are. That grounding is what leads to wonder, because you—with all the likes and dislikes attached to “you-ness”—are getting out of the way. That’s the odd thing about non-attachment: non-attachment is actually connection.

This reflection by Ajahn Viradhammo is from the book, The Contemplative’s Craft, pp. 10-11.