In Buddhism, there are eight worldly conditions of life identified that are at the central route of much of our own suffering during our physical lives. They are broken into four pairs of opposites. They are;
Gain and Loss
Praise and Criticism
Fame and Disrepute
Pleasure and Pain
As human beings, no matter how hard we try, we will experience all of the above at some point in our lives, often several times over. The presence of any one in a pair will lead to the manifestation of the other.
I call this the binary consequence of attachment.
The easiest place to look is gain and loss as it is something most of us have experienced and have a memory of from an early age. I remember the first time my mother took away a toy of mine as “punishment” for being bad. I had initially gained the toy and infused it with the ownership of “mine” and the responsibility of happiness. Its removal from my life created a vacuum of happiness, as if my identity were ripped at the seams.
Flash forward to adult life and the mechanics are the same, just different objects. Last week I lost a brand new winter hat. I loved this hat, it made me look good and I spent hard earned money it. It made me feel, attractive, confident, warm and I experienced GAIN. Even though I know that hat is gone, I keep looking for it. No other hat will do because that was THE HAT. How could another hat possibly keep me warm? I am lazy, irresponsible and careless with money. I have LOSS.
Here’s the sneaky part. The moment I started to infuse the hat with meaning for good, I guaranteed an eventual loss. This is the binary consequence of attachment. In and of themselves, experiences in life can bring us endless amounts of joy. The key difference is that joy does not arise from attachment, it arises from present moment awareness, and fully dedicating yourself to the experience that is really happening in your life.
Instagram is a great example for describing the above, and a daily reminder for me on how fast ego and the eight worldly conditions can spring into action.
The entire platform is engineered to create content and then share that content with real time feedback on whether or not your content is liked, viewed and generates connection. So lets say I share something on Instagram and it receives 100 likes. I instantly feel the pleasure of being liked, the fame of being seen, the active praise those little hearts communicate and maybe even the gain of a few friends.
And then the bottom drops out. Two days later I post something and my pride and ego from the previous post have set sufficient expectation that this is going to top the last post. BOOM!!!!
….. and 34 likes. What is happening? Why do people hate me? I am a fraud. People are sick of reading my shit. Why did you even post that? Someone un-followed me? #Imdead No one cares. Blah, Blah, Blah.
And it happens like that, the moment expectation and attachment to outcome is not met. The high of posting something that achieved gain, pleasure and fame instantly creates the fertile soil for loss, pain and disrepute.
As part of my journey over the last several months, I am beginning to find a way out, a way that brings peace and most of all, joy. It is the practice of enjoying, with the most present moment awareness I can create, whatever I am doing or what is, in my life. I am free to interact with anyone I meet without agenda. If I experience loss, I don’t focus on what the loss has taken way, rather how I can enjoy what IS NOW PRESENT in my life. I will share much more about this later.
Today I am sharing the first longer form poem I have written in several years. I wrote it last night sitting at a bar that also serves late night coffee as I am on day 21 of who knows how long of removing alcohol from my life. More about that later as well.
This is not a poem that will or even should receive any critical acclaim. It is presented as another step on the path of discovering my dharma, and sharing it with the world.
I am not mad
Red is not the color I see
I simply choose to be
This is my free
I am not sad
Reject your perception of blue
Embrace what is true
Each day is new
In the morning dew
I’m not jealous
Joy is not a prize to be won
We all stand in the sun
Accept what is done
I’m not happy
A soaring balloon that will fall
I’m down with Joy
Spontaneous-no cost attached
Or wits that must be matched
The now is hatched.
Life’s purpose dispatched
I accept death
Impermanence as we decay
Bodies wither away
Begin again day