This excerpt from the Dhammapada, a collection of direct teachings from the Buddha, encourages us to train our minds to be free from likes and dislikes. Why does the Buddha recommend that we consciously practice non-attachment to personal preferences?
By reducing attachments, we set ourselves free. This path of freedom leads to a deep feelings of peace. Just like with any training program, there is great effort and sacrifice, along with some pain and discomfort. This path requires daily practice, often starting with small steps to build confidence and strength. We can start with simple things that bring us pleasure, committing to limiting or eliminating their presence in our daily life. A few examples are:
- Social Media or other forms of electronic entertainment
- Ice cream
Remember to do this with the spirit of training the mind, rather than deprivation or punishment. When we follow this practice, we begin to reduce the craving/wanting aspect of our minds. Likewise, this can also be done with tasks that are unpleasant and that we choose to avoid. In this case, we move toward those things and bare the discomfort that is often short lived. Again, it is recommended that we start small:
- Picking up the phone when a difficult person is calling or making a difficult call
- Doing the dishes before going to bed
- Folding the laundry and putting it away
- Budgeting or paying bills
This practice requires the spirit of care and wisdom. It is important to choose things that are helpful, not harmful. By working on transcending our likes and dislikes, we set an intention to build our own inner strength and wisdom. As the Buddha teaches, “all fetters will fade away”, helping to empower and build confidence when we face the unpleasant aspects of life head on.
Warning: do not use this as a way to control eating for the purpose of “dieting,” as that just becomes another attachment or desire. The purpose of training the mind and detachment is to cultivate acting with “true freedom” without craving or aversion. When it comes to food, as well as other substances it can be an extreme challenge, so start small and build awareness around the cravings or aversions. You do not take up mountain climbing and one week later climb Mount Everest, right? I certainly hope not and just like Everest, when it comes to training the mind around BIG cravings and aversion, it is wise to have a trusted guide.
During this pandemic you may have seen yourself return to habits that have offered immediate soothing or comfort and have now taken ahold of you. Under extreme stress we can often seek out things that offer immediate relief, however they quickly can take ahold of you and lead to more craving and eventually you fall under its control. If this sound familiar, simply take this guide as a first STEP.
S Step back (meaning pause)
T. Take notice without judgment of the behavior around cravings or aversions.
E. Enlist help from others or return to your previous training, tools and practices that work.
P. Proceed with confidence that you are not alone and that even when the path is rocky, unstable, and even treacherous, that the inner resources your practice has cultivated will be there to support you (and we will too!)
Need Training? or some brushing up on skills? Join Dr. Davis and Dr. Shutt next month for virtual MBSR. Register here online!
With encouragement and unending support,
Patty and the Treehouse Faculty (aka Guides)
Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.