on not being you

On Not Being You

On not being you  —  of course you’re you. But only in one sense. Most­ly you’re a process liv­ing inside of what you call “you.”

Look­ing for more on this topic? 

Check out my book, Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall.

Wayne’s “East­ern” book takes you by the hand and helps you to find peace of mind. Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall is a Zen-based guide to liv­ing life ful­ly and deeply.

Last week I gave you the fol­low­ing quote from a book
called “Bring Me the Rhinoceros”.

Hap­pi­ness requires a cer­tain sur­ren­der. Your unhap­pi­ness is thread­ed through your idea of you. Hap­pi­ness would over­turn some things you know about your­self. Hap­pi­ness asks, “Are you will­ing to be a dif­fer­ent you?” Or, “Are you will­ing to be not you?“

John Tar­rant, Bring Me the Rhi­noc­er­os, pg. 147

I rec­og­nize that many of the themes that I present on the blog are in a sense rehash­ings of things I’ve writ­ten about before. 

But that quote from last week, when I first read it, kind of stopped me in my tracks. It was­n’t just that it was a clever sen­tence  —  and it is  —  but that it frames the whole thing in a way I’ve nev­er thought of before.

About Letting Go

My clients often used very spe­cif­ic lan­guage when address­ing what they thought were their issues.They’d say,

  • I real­ly need to let go of…” or
  • I real­ly need to stop hold­ing onto…”

And then, they’d give me a list of one or more things that they thought they needed to let go of.

They got the drift that there were cer­tain things they were doing that caused their mis­ery. It’s as if they thought that if only they could drop those spe­cif­ic behav­iors they might just be happy.

Their expe­ri­ence, how­ev­er, was that even when they man­aged to stop one or more of those behav­iors, they real­ly weren’t that much more hap­py or content. 

Hap­pi­ness, it seemed, was always a cou­ple of steps ahead of them.

I recent­ly men­tioned about anoth­er quote I’d read, where the writer used the term, “cheer­ful melancholiac.” 

I wrote that this per­spec­tive fit for me  —  that my ten­den­cy is to be a bit sad, and if I don’t watch myself, sad can turn into real­ly sad, and things can rapid­ly go down­hill from there. 

I’ve noticed, over the last few years, that I’ve got­ten over myself to a great extent, and don’t sink very far at all into this odd lit­tle pit.

It never occurred to me, however, that viewing myself as a cheerful melancholiac was just another choice.

It felt so real. Thus my sur­prise when I read the line, “… to be not you.”

I think, pri­or to that, I got it intel­lec­tu­al­ly that what was going on in my head  —  my sto­ries, my emo­tions, my delu­sions, and all the oth­er non­sense up there  —  was no more sub­stan­tial than bub­bles atop a rush­ing stream. 

They sure felt real  —  and when I was caught in the mid­dle of all the dra­ma, that was all I could see.

I think I now get it: this is just me doing what I nor­mal­ly do  —  mak­ing myself miserable. 

While it’s a great improve­ment to sim­ply let all of that be  —  to be sad when I’m sad, and not to beat up on myself over it  —  anoth­er, more inter­est­ing alter­na­tive, would be to real­ly let go.

The way we all go off the rails is by think­ing that cer­tain aspects of our per­son­al­i­ty, emo­tion­al or phys­i­cal con­di­tion, or the behav­iors we engage in are some­how etched in stone.

Here’s the truth: The contents of my mind, much like the bubbles on water, are just the game my mind is playing. They’re not me.

Here’s a quote from the Dalai Lama:

The actu­al process by which mind cre­ates our unen­light­ened exis­tence and the suf­fer­ing we expe­ri­ence is described by Can­drakir­ti in his Guide to the Mid­dle Way, where he states, “An undis­ci­plined state of mind gives rise to delu­sions which pro­pel an indi­vid­ual into neg­a­tive action which then cre­ates the neg­a­tive envi­ron­ment in which the per­son lives.” 

Unen­light­ened exis­tence [sam­sara] is get­ting caught on the wheel of life. We think that what we see is real as opposed to some­thing we make up in our heads. 

Although it’s a lot to swal­low, every­thing you see, hear, feel, think, all of this stuff, are sim­ply things going on in your head. The things you see, for exam­ple, are noth­ing more than elec­tri­cal impuls­es in your brain.

The real point, the essen­tial point, is to ful­ly under­stand that how you view the world is how you view the world.

The Dalai Lama has it in the cor­rect order: we go up into our heads and tell our­selves sto­ries, act upon the unsub­stan­ti­at­ed sto­ries, and then notice that the world we’ve cre­at­ed fits the sto­ries we’ve created. 

And then we say, “See! It’s just like I thought it was.”

Lame eh?

This is what each of us does, this is what each of us has been trained to do. This is me, being me. This is you being you.

Here’s a quote from Pema Chodron:

The process of becom­ing unstuck requires tremen­dous brav­ery, because basi­cal­ly we are com­plete­ly chang­ing our way of per­ceiv­ing real­i­ty, like chang­ing our DNA. We are undo­ing a pat­tern that is not just our pat­tern. It’s the human pat­tern: we project onto the world a zil­lion pos­si­bil­i­ties of attain­ing res­o­lu­tion. We can have whiter teeth, a weed-free lawn, a strife-free life, a world with­out embar­rass­ment. We can live hap­pi­ly ever after. This pat­tern keeps us dis­sat­is­fied and caus­es us a lot of suffering.

It’s all in our training. 

We all know that buy­ing stuff makes us hap­py, because that’s what the mar­keters tell us. We all know that we can live hap­pi­ly ever after, because that’s what the movie mak­ers tell us.

And yet, when we try to live this way, we find our­selves bump­ing our noses against our wants, our needs, and our dra­mas. We believe that hap­pi­ness and con­tent­ment some­how lies out­side of us, and we seek after it like Don Quixote tilt­ed at windmills.

What we believe something is, and what something is,
is never the same thing.

Not only do you have to notice the games you play between your ears, but you have to actu­al­ly do some­thing about them. 

I think I can pret­ty eas­i­ly get you to watch what goes on in there  —  cer­tain­ly we do that when we teach med­i­ta­tion or mind­ful­ness. Doing some­thing about it, or actu­al­ly not doing some­thing about it, is the tricky part. 

Many peo­ple think that mind­ful­ness equals calm­ness. What it actu­al­ly equals is presence.

Presence means being with whatever is going on, with total awareness, and full permission.

Pema Chodron again:

For exam­ple, if some­body aban­dons us, we don’t want to be with that raw dis­com­fort. Instead, we con­jure up a famil­iar iden­ti­ty of our­selves as a hap­less vic­tim. Or maybe we avoid the raw­ness by act­ing out and right­eous­ly telling the per­son how messed up he or she is. We auto­mat­i­cal­ly want to cov­er over the pain in one way or anoth­er, iden­ti­fy­ing with vic­to­ry or victimhood. 

This would be being you. Being not you would mean sim­ply sit­ting with the pain, watch­ing the sto­ries go by, and not attach­ing to any of it. The non-attach­ment part is a char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Mid­dle Way.

Anoth­er quote:

When we can rest in the mid­dle, we begin to have a non­threat­en­ing rela­tion­ship with lone­li­ness, a relax­ing and cool­ing lone­li­ness that com­plete­ly turns our usu­al fear­ful pat­terns upside down.
Cool lone­li­ness allows us to look hon­est­ly and with­out aggres­sion at our own minds. We can grad­u­al­ly drop our ideas of who we think we ought to be, or who we think we want to be, or who we think oth­er peo­ple think we want to be or ought to be. We give it up and just look direct­ly with com­pas­sion and humor at who we are. Then lone­li­ness is no threat and heartache, no punishment.

The Middle Way– the world turned upside down

The Mid­dle Way is the bal­anced per­spec­tive. This is how we devel­op our core. Our self iden­ti­ty expands and loosens. We let go of iden­ti­fy­ing, not only with what does not work, but also with what does. We are not any of it.

If, for exam­ple, I iden­ti­fy with my 30-year-old sol­id and healthy body, I’m in deep trou­ble in my 70s. 

If I think what hap­pened to me in the past dic­tates how I am right now, I’m stuck. 

If I think what I imag­ine ought to hap­pen is any­thing more than the sto­ry I’m telling myself, I open myself to dis­ap­point­ment and heartache.

If I watch myself, and watch oth­ers, in an open­heart­ed, car­ing, and detached way, then what is, is what is, I am who I am, and what’s going on becomes a moment in time, as opposed to a life sentence.

Last quote, From Taizan Maezu­mi Roshi:

I am not devalu­ing thought. I am just men­tion­ing that we should­n’t mix up the fact of our life with our thoughts about our life. What we think and what actu­al­ly is–that’s what Bud­dha talks about as con­stant change. Any­thing and every­thing, con­stant­ly chang­ing. That’s the real life, which is, in a way, unknow­able. And that unknow­able, imper­son­al no-self–unfixed by any kind of val­ues, attach­ments, detachments–works per­fect­ly. Know­ing noth­ing, it works com­plete­ly. That is what this life is. That is what is expressed as no-self. When you don’t see this, suf­fer­ing is wait­ing for you. When you see it, there is Nir­vana, or peace. 

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