Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Am Just a Habit

Much of what we do in the world can be reduced to habits. I have a morning routine, and a commuting routine, and a routine for going through my email.

These routines are helpful and productive. Some of my other habits, though, might not be so productive.

For example, when there's a delicious chocolate birthday cake in the refrigerator (as there is right now), I tend to eat it. When a glass of wine is offered, I tend to accept.

There's another habit of mine that's more subtle, but probably causes more suffering than any habit I can think of. And I suspect you might have the same habit, too.

It's my habit of thinking I am a separate and stable identity. A person independent from the rest of the world.

I think about this "me" in terms of my history, my wife, my friends, my enemies, my job, and of course, my stuff. But if I really examine this identity, I see it's just a bunch of thoughts. Thoughts that I can't even control much of the time. On a fundamental level I know this, so I spend a lot of time and effort trying to make my thoughts, my "personhood," seem like a consistent, stable, and kind being who does good in the world, even though my actual experience is often different from that, and sometimes completely perplexing.

What happens when I take a break from that, if only for a moment or two?

The first temptation is to say that I don't exist, that we're all one or connected or something like that. But that's just another story, another set of thoughts diametrically opposite the thoughts that were causing me suffering. And those thoughts cause suffering, too. Because while I can't say I have an identity, paradoxically I can't say I don't have one, either.

No, when there is a break, there is simply this. Whatever is happening, without any need to interpret or control. No need for my stories, no resistance to my stories if they arise. Just life as it is happening.

And while I can't force this break from myself, I certainly welcome it when it happens.


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