And what do we truly own?
Definition of OWN: belonging to oneself or itself — usually used following a possessive case or possessive adjective.
How many times a day do we view or even verbalize our ownership of people, places and things? My spouse, my car, my house, my feelings, my needs. Yet I think that we rarely stop and think about the fact that none of these truly belong to us. We ignorantly think that possession of this thought gives us ownership and control. But we can look at any of these individually and see this is a facade, an illusion. All are impermanent and outside of our control. Spouses can disappear through death or divorce, cars can get into accidents or break-down, houses can be destroyed by natural disasters, fire, and foreclosure. And our feelings and needs are in a constant state of flux, being tossed about by external circumstances that dictate each moment as it constantly changes.
So what do we truly own, possess and control – what can we call ours? What is it that is solid, permanent, and inseparable from our being?
The answer is awareness. This is the only thing that we have any chance of developing, and the only thing that we may continue to develop as long as we live. All else is merely a distorted perception of reality, and the source of our own suffering. And it is by way of awareness that each of us can begin to see this. Seeing that every time the thought arises of “I”, “me” or “mine”, we are slicing off a piece of dukkha (suffering). And this is always a choice that we have. There is no rule that says we must own or possess anyone or anything, not even any thought which arises. And through awareness we can come to see and understand this. To observe the impermanent nature of all things, and allow them to rise and fall away without judgement or attachment. And doesn’t that sound like the beginning of liberation to you? The end of “me, me, me”.
But I am fully aware that this takes practice, as I still find myself falling into this trap constantly. This society, and especially the American culture, is one of greed and accumulation. Possession of material goods and wealth are seen as a positive, and an escalation of ones stature in the community. Yes, we live in a hugely ego-driven environment. And how very easily we can be led to think that anything contrary is antisocial, even anti-American! But this is certainly not a global phenomenon, it is somewhat unique to this country. Just take Syria as one example, and we can easily see that staying alive and protecting your Family is likely the only goal. No one there is concerned about new tires for their BMW, a new Plasma TV, or even concerned if they are facing a home foreclosure. The people, children and families, have a far greater awareness and understanding than I think most of us can comprehend.
And yet, perhaps even in their terrible circumstances, they also offer each of us a precious gift. The gift of present awareness and gratitude for this life. And I have to wonder, what gift is it that we offer them?