I think I’m going to start thinking of the self as an ‘Earthquake evacuation plan on an etch-sketch.’ We may cling to it for comfort, but under closer scrutiny we realize how silly that is, that don’t need it, that we can be free without it, and that we should not depend on it.
Helen Keller reminded us that security is mostly a superstition. If we understand the impermanence of life, then anything we rely on or cling to for support and comfort can also disintegrate. We know nothing lasts forever but habitually ward off any sense of a problem and are surprised when ‘shit happens,’ like when we lose our health or lose a loved one.
Fortunately its those difficult times that can be our teacher. Pema Chodron wrote in When Things Fall Apart that:
The only time we ever know what’s really going on is when the rug’s been pulled out from under us and we can’t find anywhere to land.
We can use these situations either to wake ourselves up or to put ourselves to sleep. Right now—in the very instant of groundlessness—is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness…
When my marriage fell apart, I tried hard—very, very hard—to go back to some kind of comfort, to some kind of security, to some kind of familiar resting place. Fortunately for me, I could never pull it off. Instinctively I knew that annihilation of my old dependent, clinging self was the only way to go.
So by letting go, rather than depending on, this fragile illusion of self we can free ourselves from suffering.