In our consumer culture, we’re often led to believe that accumulating and owning things is the measure of success; what it means to be happy and valued as an individual. Although this kind of message is still used successfully in marketing and advertising, most of us know that buying a new sofa is not going to solve all our problems or transform our happiness. And although we may not be that attached to our furniture, most of us are deeply embedded and attached to the thoughts and feelings of “what it is to be me”.
We’re attached to things from our past: unpleasant experiences from our childhood, mistakes, regrets, past relationships, feelings of shame, guilt or grief, as well as worries about the future. Hardly any moment of experience is really immune from the mental and emotional baggage we bring into the present. At best this distorts how we see the world: at worst it takes the joy out of life. Each raw moment of experience is potentially clean and untarnished before we perceive the world through our particular overlay and filters of thoughts and feelings. For one person, snow is a minor disaster and another a joy.
Why do we hold onto thoughts and emotions and how can we let go and discover the freedom, potential, and possibilities of each flowing moment of experience?
We’ve already touched on why we hold onto thoughts and emotions; we’re attached to them to such an extent that they become part of “what it means to be me”. Like a speck on your sunglasses, which is so close to your eye that it’s out of focus; we easily lose sight of our attachments in the vague background of experience. When our mind wanders, we hold recurring thoughts in our mind just below awareness, which re-energize emotions and feelings held in the body. For instance, we may be innocently cleaning our teeth when our attention becomes distracted by what happened last Saturday, “Did she really say that? Who does she think I am?” As feelings are re-energized the body contracts a little; muscles begin to tighten around the neck, face and shoulders and blood pressure increases, all in the quiet background of experience.
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