Imagine a cup! You can see it clearly in your minds eye, you may have feelings about the cup, you may have thoughts about your feelings about the cup. No matter how well you see or feel about the cup it will always be illusory. Can you fill this cup with water or tea, can you drink from it, break it, paint it, photograph it?
The Buddhist perspective is that what we think and feel is illusory. The ‘act of thought’ and the ‘act of feeling’ is real but the content is an illusion. Unfortunately we are conditioned to believe that we are our thoughts and feelings, that they constitute an I, a me and therefore a mine but this I, me and mine, are no different from the cup. Like the cup they are illusory. They are useful in a relative sense, to communicate and live a human life but they are not, in and of themselves real. It is this misconception of a self that causes all kinds of suffering as you search for what you want and reject what you don’t want all to support the illusion of a self.
What if there was no self? What happens then? Do we cease to exist? Do we disappear? In my experience the answer is no, no we don’t. The eyes continue to see, ears continue to hear, heart beat, lungs breathe. In truth very little of what we do requires the direct input from our thoughts and feelings.
Allowing the circle of thoughts and feelings to be and seeing them for what they are gives rise to real choice. You don’t have to take them so seriously. If we pay more attention to what is real, here and now, rather than our thoughts and feelings our choices are more appropriate, they fit the situation rather than the fantasy of thoughts and feelings about what is real. Dare I say, what’s appropriate just becomes so obvious you don’t have to think about it.
What would happen if you met a person without your projections of them, rather, you responded to what was arising in that moment? How many times have you thought and played out strategies in your mind about an event for that event not to arise or arise in such a way that it bears little or no relation to what you imagined? All that time, effort and energy that could have been used for something else.
A favoured quote from Dogen comes to mind ‘Can you sit long enough for the answer to arise on its own?’.
Letting go of this sense of someone doing something is, for me, liberating in ways language doesn’t do justice too but fear of death seems attenuated, creativity increases, relationships are less neurotic, there’s a sense of space, tranquility, peace.
I didn’t sit here and think what should I write. I sat and this wrote itself although I confess to polishing it somewhat for the sake of clarity. As I sit here I have no thoughts or feelings about it because there is no I to appropriate it although there might be later on if someone says they found it useful 🙂
Investigate for yourself the experience of dreaming, are you aware of a dreamer when you are dreaming? What is different between the experience of dreaming and the content of thoughts and feelings? They seem the same to me and yet we can, largely, let go of a dream almost before we are aware we have had it and yet cling to what is ostensibly the same experience outside of a dream as if it is somehow real. Interesting huh?
Thoughts about feelings about thoughts about feelings about…