Cling Static

We get cling sta­t­ic when­ev­er we find our­selves grasp­ing onto some­thing (or push­ing it away–in which case we’re cling­ing on to not hav­ing it.)

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Today’s top­ic is addressed more ful­ly in my book, Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall.

One of the ear­li­est teach­ings of the Bud­dha con­cerns the nature of life, and is often called the Four Noble Truths, or per­haps more clear­ly, the 4 Pre­em­i­nent Real­i­ties.

Or, 4 Descriptors of the way it is.

Here’s the text ver­sion of the 4 descrip­tors, as well as an illus­tra­tion, both from the book.

1) Life, and our sense of an indi­vid­ual self, leads us to a feel­ing of dukkha, or unsat­is­fac­tori­ness. Dukkha is typ­i­cal­ly trans­lat­ed as ‘suf­fer­ing,’ but the word actu­al­ly refers to any­thing that caus­es us unease.) We judge that the way life is, and the way we are, is ‘not quite right.’

2) The root cause (samu­daya) of this sense of unsat­is­fac­tori­ness is tan­ha—“thirst”—often trans­lat­ed as desire, or craving—which is expressed through the evil twins of cling­ing and aver­sion. Psy­chol­o­gists call cling­ing ‘the max­i­miza­tion of plea­sure,’ and aver­sion ‘the avoid­ance of pain.’

The desire to hold on to stuff, while desir­ing to avoid oth­er stuff, leads to a sen­sa­tion of unsatisfactoriness.

3) The way out of this cycle is through ces­sa­tion (nirod­ha). If I stop desir­ing, (through the dis­ci­plin­ing and emp­ty­ing of the mind) and live in the Now (because desire is always about want­i­ng (or avoid­ing) what I had in the past, or want­i­ng (or avoid­ing) some­thing in the future), my sense of unsat­is­fac­tori­ness (suf­fer­ing) will cease.

4) The cure pro­posed by the Bud­dha, is mag­ga—the Eight­fold Path of ‘sound living.’

cling static

The first descrip­tor is typ­i­cal­ly trans­lat­ed “Life is Suf­fer­ing,” but this Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the Pali dukkha miss­es the breadth of dukkha’s mean­ing. Dukkha might be thought of as per­va­sive uneasi­ness, or per­va­sive unsat­is­fac­tori­ness. This unease can run from mild dis­com­fort to out­right agony.

If you think about it, you’ll recognize that this sense of,
“there has to be more, something else…” is prevalent

Judgement: is the expectation that

  • my world­view is cor­rect, and that
  • the world “should” give a damn.

“We ask, entreat, implore, intense­ly desire—that the world’s objects yield abid­ing plea­sure, sat­is­fac­tion, and secu­ri­ty. But how can they? Their fun­da­men­tal nature is imper­ma­nent…” Wal­lis, Basic Teach­ings of the Bud­dha, pg 126‑7

Now, notice the word “abid­ing.” Part of cling sta­t­ic is try­ing to make things last. This is espe­cial­ly so with things we find pleas­ant, char­gy, erot­ic, desir­able. Many are the peo­ple who cry, “I want this ecsta­t­ic feel­ing to last!” And then they blame the thing for not lis­ten­ing, for not last­ing. And yet, the thing we for­get is that noth­ing lasts—not peo­ple, not cir­cum­stances, and, emphat­i­cal­ly, not us.

Inves­ti­ga­tion, on the oth­er hand, is expressed in my favourite word regard­ing relat­ing: curios­i­ty.

In inves­ti­ga­tion, as opposed to cling sta­t­ic, we look at what is, imag­ine what could be, and change our­selves!

A cheap illustration would be Edison inventing the light bulb.

He saw gas lights, thought about its flaws, and thought, “Hmm. I won­der what I could do to come up with anoth­er way.” 

He did not stamp his feet and demand that the gas light change. He rec­og­nized an inten­tion in him­self (remem­ber, he had no advance knowl­edge that he would suc­ceed in cre­at­ing an elec­tric light) to cre­ate some­thing entire­ly new. He then stud­ied, built a work­shop, and start­ed exper­i­ment­ing. He learned a lot about what would not work, and even­tu­al­ly solved the rid­dle with car­bonized tung­sten filament.

Hopefully, you can see another blatant difference between judgement and investigation.

  • In judge­ment, the focus, the light, is being direct­ed to the exter­nal sit­u­a­tion, per­son, or object.
  • In inves­ti­ga­tion, one turns the light inward, and looks deeply at how one relates to the exter­nal sit­u­a­tion, per­son, or object.
  • In judge­ment, the intent is to force the exter­nal to change to match the inter­nal picture.
  • In inves­ti­ga­tion, one explores one’s inter-rela­tion­ship between the inter­nal and the exter­nal, with the expec­ta­tion of bend­ing the self. Releas­ing the self. Find­ing the juici­ness of life in the inter­play between that which I imag­ine and that which “is.”

Even after death, we imag­ine, the cling sta­t­ic game goes on, I’d like to sug­gest that there is tragedy here. What a waste! The prob­lem is all about cling­ing to the image that “some­thing bet­ter is always around the corner.”

And then, when the something better comes along, we seek something better-er. As it were.

Now, I’m not sug­gest­ing that you suck it up and stay in “bad” sit­u­a­tions, rela­tion­ships, etc. I’m say­ing that hang­ing around in bad sit­u­a­tions with the expec­ta­tion that, if you whine long and loud­ly enough, the sit­u­a­tion will change, is sim­ply absurd. It’s about accept­ing that I can stop mak­ing the same mis­takes about situations.

Most relational mistakes have everything to do with judging as opposed to investigating.

In all cas­es, the way past suf­fer­ing (the 3rd descrip­tor) is in how we live and “be” (in the Buddha’s words, the eight-fold path–the 4th descriptor.)

Inves­ti­gat­ing what you are doing, and shift­ing from what does not and can­not work, to what allows you to drop cling­ing, gives you the chance to be present, to be alive, and to be aware.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is known on the web as the Sim­ple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Pri­vate Prac­tice Coun­sel­lor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the lat­est being The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

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