Live Without Self-Attachment

Estimated time to read: 2 minutes

Live Without Self-Attachment

If we so desire, we may choose to live without self-attachment.  We fear the realities of our world and secretly yearn for a permanent self.  Yet, no matter how hard one works or the greatness of their successes, suffering continues.  Within glory lies defeat, for self-attachment begets only suffering.  Upon experiencing the self’s realities, suffering dissolves.

The Challenge of Not-Self:

At first, all sensations occurring from the six sense doors (e.g., touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, thinking) appear to concern only ourselves.  When we taste a delicious meal, we feel it’s ourselves who eats.  This sounds absurd, but as we continue to grow within our meditative practice, our understanding of self begins to fade away.  Our sense of clinging becomes evident, and suffering vanishes.  Eventually, we begin to feel the puppeteer’s strings snapping, and the self disappears.

The Practice of Not-Self:

Similar to the practice discussed in The Fundamental Skills of Mediation, we begin with concentration.  Settle into a relaxed position and count ten breaths. There’s no rush here, and in your mind, it may sound like, “inhale-one, exhale-one…” and so on.  Once you’re able to get through ten full breaths without distraction, begin noting your abdomen’s physical rising and falling.  Whenever you experience the rising and falling of the abdomen, note “rising, rising, rising, falling, falling falling.”  

At this point, it’s common to find yourself overwhelmed with distractions.  You may feel a restlessness in the body or diverted by daydreams.  To counterbalance these distractions, begin noting them as well.  Should you be noting the rising of the abdomen and become distracted by the sound of a siren, you may note, “rising, rising, siren, siren, siren.” Fixate your attention on the siren and note it responsibly.  When completed, return to the rising of the abdomen. You’ll find as you carefully begin to note the distractions, they fall away indefinitely.

Once most of the distractions have fallen away, and you remain entirely fixated on the abdomen’s rising and falling, begin separating the mental sensations from the physical.  For example, before every physical experience of the abdomen’s rising, it is preceded by mental desire and proceeded by mental noting.  Begin separating these mental sensations and notice their chain of causation.  You may note this as “desire, rising, noting,” and so on.  With practice, you’ll begin to notice how desire causes the physical sensation, so too, this causes the mental noticing.  At first, this is very difficult.  Break it down into sections and practice daily.  

At this point, your level of concentration will be powerful.  Remember the golden rule, “If you can observe it, it’s not you.”  As these sensations come in-and-out of focus, notice how they can be observed and not you.  Again-and-again, these sensations will occur, appearing to have self-attachment, but continually notice how they’re not you.

The Lesson of Not-Self:

Continue nothing not-self, not only within the rising and falling of the abdomen but everything else as well.  Whether through one of the six sense doors (e.g., touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, thinking), fear, misery, disgust, or even desire, notice how these sensations are not you and then immediately disappear.  As your practice continues to grow, new types of sensations will appear.  These too will at first seem to be part of you and permanent, and you’ll continue learning the lesson over and over again until it permeates everything within your awareness.  Just as you once crawled and now walk; so too, once you discover the not-self of sensations, you’ll never view the world the same way again.

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David Bowman
David's teaching style is direct, clear, and to the point. With over 8 years of experience in the field of meditation, his work is both accessible as well as pragmatic. Having worked in think tanks, financial institutes, rabbinical and graduate schools, David’s personal philosophy is deeply informed by his eclectic past.

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