A Warning About Asking "Who Am I"
- This is an excerpt from:
"Mindfulness Defined", by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Access to Insight , June 5, 2010,
The Buddha discovered that the way you attend to
things is determined by what you see as important:
the questions you bring to the practice, the
problems you want the practice to solve. No act
of attention is ever bare. If there were no problems
in life you could open yourself up choicelessly to
whatever came along. But the fact is there is a big
problem smack dab in the middle of everything you do:
the suffering that comes from acting in ignorance.
This is why the Buddha doesn't tell you to view each
moment with a beginner's eyes. You've got to keep
the issue of suffering and its end always in mind.
Otherwise inappropriate attention will get in the
way, focusing on questions like "Who am I?"
"Do I have a self?"questions that deal in terms
of being and identity. Those questions, the Buddha
said, lead you into a thicket of views and leave
you stuck on the thorns. The questions that lead
to freedom focus on comprehending suffering, letting
go of the cause of suffering, and developing the
path to the end of suffering. Your desire for
answers to these questions is what makes you alert
to your actionsyour thoughts, words, and deedsand
ardent to perform them skillfully.
Mindfulness is what keeps the perspective of appropriate
attention in mind. Modern psychological research has
shown that attention comes in discrete moments. You
can be attentive to something for only a very short
period of time and then you have to remind yourself,
moment after moment, to return to it if you want to
keep on being attentive. In other words, continuous
attentionthe type that can observe things over
timehas to be stitched together from short intervals.
This is what mindfulness is for. It keeps the object
of your attention and the purpose of your attention
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