Sunday, January 1, 2012

Clinging to Hope and Fear

In the second of the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha taught that clinging or attachment is the root of suffering. On Christmas Eve I was reminded of this.

My wife and I had plans to go over to a close friend's house for Christmas Eve dinner. I was extra excited because usually DC empties out for Christmas and we have no friends around. Christmas eve has seemed kind of lonely over the past few years, but this year would be different. 

I eagerly planned out the side dish I would make for the occasion. Then, just as I was about to go out and buy a bottle of wine and the ingredients for my side dish, I got a phone call from my friend. 
He and his wife had caught a stomach flu. He sounded pretty rough. I felt sorry for him, spending Christmas with the flu and all.  We made plans to do dinner another time.

I had been clinging to a vision of what Christmas Eve dinner would be like. We would show up with presents. My side dish would be a smashing success. My friend is an excellent cook, so there was no doubt the meal would be great. There would definitely be a lot of joking around, laughing and merriment.

When that vision fell apart and I was left trying to figure out how to make Christmas Eve whole again. Actually, I ignored it for a few hours and then found myself in a mood that was hard to get out of. 

If you ignore a changing mood when it starts to become negative, it can become a downward spiral. Thoughts multiply like little bunnies from hell. Next thing you know, you are clawing your way out of a ditch and the dirt around you seems to crumble and conspire to keep you down.

Hope and fear is a trap that clamps down on me over and over again, reminding me that I am living in the bewildered confusion of samsara. I hope something will happen in the future. When it doesn't, I sometimes want things to be different than they are. This is clinging to my vision of how I want things to be. This is what the Buddha was talking about in the Second Noble Truth. Fear works in a similar way, in the sense that I fear things will be a certain way in the future, so I work to avoid those things.

Contemplating how this works allows its truth to unravel bit by bit. I guess some part of me is still not convinced, because hope and fear is still a part of my routine.  Meditation expands my awareness, so that I can see more clearly when hope and fear are coming for me. 

With a mind that is less distracted, there is less stuff obstructing my view. There is open space and I can see hope and fear at a greater distance. I definitely deal with hope and fear differently than I used to, but I'm still not a black belt in this regard.

The big irony here is that I hope in the future I will have meditated enough to expand my awareness to the point where I will see hope and fear coming a mile away. Maybe some day, when I have meditated enough, and my abilities are much stronger, I can let go of that hope. 

I suspect that I'll continue to fall into the trap of hope and fear until I can let go of hoping against hope altogether. Seeing hope and fear clearly must be the path to letting it all go. 

No comments:

Post a Comment