Tuesday, July 21, 2009

See a penny...

Ok. I'm better now. It usually takes me a couple of days to get back to normal (normal for me, anyway) after a long trip. I'm getting there.

I'm reading a book called Open to desire: Embracing a lust for life: Insights from Buddhism and psychotherapy. It starts with an interesting concept that I'm already finding helpful and that inspired my latest sketch.

As part of my midlife crisis, I've been struggling with the feeling that time is slipping out of my hands and I'm frantically trying to grasp and hold tightly to the things I desire or feel I might lose or have lost. Reminds me of one time several years ago when I was water skiing and I fell. I hadn't been water skiing in a long time so I was a little rusty. Instead of just letting go of the tow rope and gently sliding back down into the water, I tightly clung on for dear life while the boat proceeded to pull me, bouncing painfully on the water, skis up in every direction for several yards before I realized that I just had to let go! I was sore for a couple of days after that in some places on my body I didn't even know existed. Lesson learned.

Well...the author of Open to Desire talks about two concepts in Buddhism: one is the concept of desire and one is the concept of tanha (thirst, craving, clinging). If you're familiar with Buddhism at all, you'll know that Buddhists believe that life is about suffering and that the cause of suffering is attachment or desire. The goal of many Buddhist practices is to learn how to let go; how not to be so attached to things, people, etc. Very oversimplified summary by a non-Buddhist (me).

This author argues that Buddhism is about learning to let go of tanha. Here's the story he uses to explain the concept and I really like it:

A Buddist speaker was asked about the concept of non-attachment and that it makes sense in some ways (e.g., not getting overly attached to material posessions) but not in others (e.g., attaching to family and friends). The speaker said, "It's like holding a coin." and he held out one arm with his palm up and his fist closed. "We can hold it like this," and he emphasized the closed nature of his fist, "or we can hold it like this," and he opened his hand to show the coin sitting in the center of his palm. "The closed fist is like clinging (tanha) but with my hand open, I still hold the coin."

The author says that "desire...is a vehicle for personal transformation. Rather than treating it as the cause of suffering, desire is embraced as a valuable and precious resource, an emotion that, if harnessed correctly, can awaken and liberate the mind."

This may be more than any of you want to know about me but I'm really interested in learning how to hold things, including the people in my life, in a more open way. To have them in my life without clinging or wanting to possess or forcing a particular kind of relationship. The image of the open hand holding the coin is perfect!!

1 comment:

  1. WOW! very interesting... have you ever read, seen, stumpled across an article, topic, meeting, conversation and thought, wow, that person is speaking directly to me. very interesting. from time to time, i have felt that the person, article, scripture is all about me. in some cases i am the the cause and in other cases i am not the cause, but i am still the story. i have a role in the story.

    of course, i am not that self centered and i know that this story is not about me but i feel very close to the story. in many cases, i am the clinched fist. holding on for dear life. funny, if i were water skiing like you, i would probably still be holding on(lol, just kidding, i am not that strong). in other cases, i am definitely able to keep my hand open as well as my heart.

    in life, there are many things that have slipped through my fingers and passed by my hand. believe it or not, i still feel that i have many of those things. i am still holding on with my hands/palms open.