The primary cause of suffering is attachment to a specific outcome. If that outcome is what we experience then it doesn’t trigger suffering, at least not in the moment, but perhaps later it will if we grow accustomed to that specific outcome. Then when a time comes that we don’t experience the outcome we’re attached to we’re going to suffer.
In Dancing With Life, Phillip Moffitt says, “The practice of the Fifth Insight is to realize the cause of suffering by abandoning, at least momentarily, the attachment to getting what you desire. By abandoning, the Buddha means for you to simply let go of the attachment. You cultivate the intention not to hold on to or identify with any of the endless wishes and desires that arise thousands of times throughout your day.”
Some things are obviously easier to let go of than others. For example, today I had a fairly packed schedule and woke up feeling anxiety about whether or not I could complete all the tasks ahead of me. But instead of focusing on the whole, I just focused on what was happening in that moment: Sit up and get a cup of coffee. Relax. Take a shower. Get dressed. Check email. Gather my things together. Get in the car. Drive to my first appointment.
From there everything just unfolded. Things got done. I managed to accomplish all the most important tasks on my To Do List.
I’m reminded constantly to let go of attachment to outcome as I type on my laptop computer and the standard keyboard I plug into it has a wire that shorts out a few times each hour, which means I have to unplug it and plug it back in. It’s annoying, but I every time I pull it out and plug it back in, I remind myself that I do have a choice. The simplest choice is to buy a new keyboard, one without a short in the wire. But I don’t. I just accept the limitations of the one I have.
There is such a thing as desire without craving, which is to have a preference without being attached to the outcome.
One of the tasks on my To Do List was to go to the Motor Vehicle Division and get my license plates renewed. Today is the last day of the 30-day grace period, so it really needed to get done. But… surprise, surprise!… the office was closed. Thanks to all the meditation I’ve done over the years, learning to let go of the outcome, I just got back in my car and went on to my next task. I accepted the outcome. I didn’t waste any energy suffering. After all, if there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome, what’s the point in suffering on top of it?
Fortunately I can still legally drive today so I’ll be at Dharma Punx meditating tonight and leading the Dharma talk. Feel free to join us… especially if you’re tired of suffering.