Author Topic: Detaching from Culturally "Positive" Ideas  (Read 1758 times)


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Detaching from Culturally "Positive" Ideas
« on: November 17, 2013, 07:30:10 AM »
I wanted to share an experience that was a combination of my own feelings throughout life, the reading of a book, and the hearing of a friend's random story that woke up some things in my mind - as well as ask if other people have found themselves in difficulty working with "positive" feelings, ideas, virtues, and ideals.

Here is the cram packed version:  I love my friends very much.  I hold affection and care for them, and it pains me to lose them if I do.  Sometimes though this has become a burden, because I will want to do something such as move to a different city or change jobs, but I think about the effect it will have on my friends (some of which I work with), how they will miss me and I them, and feel that I am not willing to harm them even if I decide the move or job change is in my best interest.

Next, reading Bhante Gunaratana's "Mindfulness in Plain English", there is one line that reads, "It is relatively easy to apply awareness to the nastier aspects of your existence...They hurt.  You want to get rid of those things because they bother you.  It is a good deal harder to apply that same process to mental states that you cherish like patriotism, or parental protectiveness, or true love.  But it is just as necessary.  Positive attachments hold you in the mud just as assuredly as negative attachments."  Looking at it objectively yes it makes sense and I can consciously agree, but I knew deep down the visceral parts of my mind that hold beliefs before I even have the chance to form a thought still felt that the love of a child, the brotherhood of friendship, and undying affection toward a partner were real and solid, and the important stuff of life.

Lastly, my co-worker told me a story that his girlfriend was taking care of a family's kitten whose mother wouldn't care for it.  Apparently she was the only kitten of the litter, and the single kitten wasn't enough to create a nurturing response in the mother, making it impossible for the baby cat to feed or be cleaned - thus the need to be taken care of by hand.

All of those things combined today to make me realize how important it is to put even the most valued and treasured ideals under the microscope in the same way we look at fear, anger and things we DON'T like, otherwise it will affect our lives in the same way. 

It's nice and pleasant to think about parental love and permanent security knowing your family will care for you.  It is not nice and unpleasant to think that the drive to care for family is (as far as current science knows) based on chemicals in the brain that reward protective, nurturing functions while creating painful, adverse feelings towards the opposite.  To think parents only care for their young because it is more pleasant than not caring for them is a horribly horribly unpleasant idea that leaves a bad taste in many people's mouths - but that doesn't change the fact that when you bring it to more simpler terms, love, affection, parental care and other things rise and fall, are born and are lost in the same way as negativity and painful emotions.

One such example that people may have knowledge of is Alzheimer's Disease.  Anyone who has a relative who suffers or has suffered from this knows how painful it can be to talk to someone who has cared and loved you with all their heart, but now does not recognize you.

It was suddenly today I realized why it was so important to look at these things for what they are, and why it is so difficult to do so - If you don't look at the reality of the thing, and something arises that doesn't fit your made up image, it causes your entire built up world to shift, change and potentially even be damaged in the form of a nervous breakdown.  Your entire belief system is called into question because something you believed so fully has shown itself to not be true.  Also, it is very difficult to face these things because it's no different than being woken up from a wonderful dream in a soft bed.  Not many people like the alarm clock that wakes them up for work, and many would rather stay in bed and head back to the dream beach in Cancun.  Not many people would like to be pulled from these images because they seem innocent enough as long as they are not challenged or shown to be false. 

Everyone can desire to get rid of anger and anxiety, but many people waver once it comes to tearing out the deeply rooted beliefs of valued things.  I've met a few people that (and at times myself) have been Buddhists during depressive times, but hedonists during enjoyable times.  But I've been noticing more and more how true Bhante's words are: until I look at exactly at the things I value and see what they are, the falsely held beliefs will not only lead me astray in delusion, but open me to a rude awakening from a blindness to the nature of reality and the effects it can have.

So much for a short post... ::)

Anyway here is why I made this topic:  Can anyone else share an experience of when they looked into the "positive" aspects of life?  Where they willingly worked to wake themselves from the beach in Cancun?  Has anyone else felt a greater difficulty in releasing the pleasurable than avoiding the painful?

Thanks for reading,
In my experience, peace is not enjoyment or happiness, nor will peace keep you from getting hurt or depressed.  Peace is only the quality of not being disturbed.


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Re: Detaching from Culturally "Positive" Ideas
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2013, 08:07:48 PM »
Has anyone else felt a greater difficulty in releasing the pleasurable than avoiding the painful?
DK, I do not think it is that black-and-white. I once went through a divorce. I saw that as necessary. To be able to divorce, I needed to take a distance to a lot of things that I still felt as valuable and pleasant. In fact stopping to love her was far more difficult than not hating her. But I was too malleable in her hands - that was not good for me, and not good for her. So I needed to stand up for myself.
Likewise, in my view: Yes, there are moments on the path that you need to give up something you cherished. But when it is the proper moment, you will see the need and see that this thing that feels good is not so positive after all.
For instance, some people have a need to feel secure. (Well, most people, if not all. ;) ) But some people give themselves a false sense of security by blaming others. Once you have seen that this "security" is false, you will not any more like to blame others, and you will have the discipline not to do it any more.

Indeed, the need for friendship can hurt. And indeed, at times that is a reason not to take friendship very seriously. And also not to take the need of others for friendship too seriously. New friendships will come, new colleagues will come, and eventually they will go also.

So: It would not be very elegant to throw away all the love you have. Neither would it be elegant to keep it at all cost. A proper time will come for each move.

Be well,


It is not nice and unpleasant to think that the drive to care for family is (as far as current science knows) based on chemicals in the brain that reward protective, nurturing functions while creating painful, adverse feelings towards the opposite. 
I can easily claim the opposite: It is beautiful to see, that caring-for-family has been so basic, and so much needed through many, many, many generations, that is has even deserved / grown a chemical basis in the genes and in the brain.


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Re: Detaching from Culturally "Positive" Ideas
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2013, 07:27:31 AM »
Hi DK, that was nicely written. A recurring challenge for me is letting go of an attachment to romantic love. Even looking back at the most intense of my previous relationships - and seeing clearly in hindsight all the idealism and delusion that was going on - the craving for that sort of attraction and closeness with another person is still there (especially when there are challenging events in my life). It seems we have a tendency to remember the good things from the past and forget about the bad. I usually fast-forward relationships in my head to remind myself of the suffering that eventually and inevitably results from such strong attachments.


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Re: Detaching from Culturally "Positive" Ideas
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2013, 10:18:28 PM »
Nothing avoids the microscope.

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