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How To Undress Your Objects

March 12, 2013
dog in lingerie

This object is not naked.

Objects seem to control our mind, but they are only powerful due to our projections.  Our goal in meditation is to strip adjectives away from the object, and see the object as it is.  Just meet the object without preconceptions.  Meditation is not a technique to retreat from objects or to renounce them. It is a way to learn to see objects nakedly — fresh and new. — The Bad Lama

In our last post, we discussed healing our relationship with disturbing objects, particularly through the use of the technique called touch and go. When we practice this technique, we control the amount of contact we have with a disturbing object and the amount of space we need to accommodate that contact.  By practicing in this way, we can let go of our habitual reactions to a disturbing object and learn to sit simply with that object just as it is, without freaking out.


Le tailleur, c’est moi!

In the quote above, the Bad Lama says that we should learn to see the object nakedly. So we might ask how did the object get dressed up?  Who is its tailor? Who purchased the fabric? The answer is that we are the costumers of our objects. We clothe our objects with our ideas, hopes, fears and projections.  We  cover them with scary toxic opinions and flee in terror. We drape them in spicy lingerie fantasies and pant after them.  We cloak them in camouflage and lose sight of them entirely.

When we practice the technique of touch and go, we allow the space for our sticky emotional reactions to dissolve so we can appraoch closer and closer to a disturbing object. Just as we might habituate a frightened animal to our presence by gradually moving closer to it, we habituate our wild mind to the disturbing object by gradually moving closer.

Shamatha/vipashyana comprises techniques of both taming and training. When we use the touch and go technique in this way, we are taming our mind.  We help it to calm down in the presence of a disturbing object. We can also use a more active training technique called antidote meditation to help us see objects nakedly. This technique directly supplies “antidotes” to those opinions that are the major contributors to our emotional reactions. The basic idea is simple: if you have a strongly-held opinion about an object, try thinking the opposite.

We believe that adjectives exist within objects. Reality is free of adjectives.  Adjectives are imputed; projections.  We fall in love with somebody and say, “You’re wonderful!”  Over time, that adjective fades and then we say, “You’ve changed!”  We suffer because of this. – The Bad Lama

In our practice of antidote technique, we could undertake a formal meditation in which we practice antidotes to opinions that lead to anger, greed, and ignorance (or closed-mindedness).  Since this practice is likely to stir up many thoughts and feelings, it’s a good idea to practice a taming and calming shamatha technique, such as following the breath, before and after practicing antidote meditation. Here’s an instruction for such a formal practice:

Imagine a person or situation toward which you feel righteous anger. You might imagine someone who treated you rudely or was abusive to someone else. Bring this person or situation vividly to mind.  Then strongly bring in the opinion, “That was a really good thing.  There is no problem at all with that.  I approve of it.”

Imagine someone or something that’s truly beautiful; rare and valuable; a treasure.  It could be the last remaining masterwork of a great artist, an animal species about to go extinct, or the photo of the great love of your life. Now strongly bring in the opinion, “How ugly and shoddy!  What a piece of crap.  Not worth anything.  The world would be better off without it.”

Finally, imagine a profound truth; an insight that took a lot of hard work to achieve; a helpful teaching that has improved your life and that of others. Now strongly assert the opinion, “What hogwash!  This is a story to bamboozle gullible children.  A fraud; not true at all!”

Notice the opinions to which you cling most strongly.  Which opinion do you have the hardest time letting go? Get to know your style: what anger do you cling to, what sensual enjoyment, what wisdom?

antidote locker

Apply as needed.

You can apply this technique in everyday life: you can play Instant Antidote — a fun and challenging game! When you experience something that you have a strong opinion about, immediately apply an “antidote” opinion.  When you are looking for a parking spot in a crowded lot and notice that someone has managed to park in such a way that they block two spots, you can think, “How wonderful and helpful!”  If you see an incredibly sexy person to whom you are powerfully attracted, you can think “Oh, the poor, deformed creature!” And when you hear someone say something incredibly inane, you can think, “What pearls of wisdom!” (If you leave the comment “What pearls of wisdom!” to this blog entry, I know what you mean, you wonderful and helpful person!)

The purpose of reversing our opinion is not to prove that the opposite opinion is true, nor to arrive at some complete picture in which all aspects of an object are presented in a balanced way.  The purpose is to notice how we cling to certain adjectives and opinions. It’s not a problem that an adjective arises to our consciousness; the problem is that we cling to that adjective.  Then if a new adjective arises in respect to that object we are either outraged or crushed.

On the relative level, there are healthier and less healthy adjectives.  Unhealthy adjectives are to be negated. Healthy adjectives are to be adopted provisionally, knowing that they are ultimately not true. How can you tell if an adjective is healthy?  Unhealthy adjectives limit your mind and make you suffer.  Healthy adjectives (even if ultimately not true) are more in accord with the facts.  But in the ultimate view, reality is free from all labels.—The Bad Lama

As The Bad Lama assets above, in the big picture, all adjectives are equally unhealthy, because they all limit our relationship with the objects they describe.  But in our immediate experience, we may find that some adjectives are more unhealthy than others. For instance, we might harbor a negative self-image.  We might think that we are unlovable or unworthy.  Our belief in this adjective  — our reinforcement of our negative self-image — limits our ability to connect to other people.  So we need to antidote this adjective and in order to alleviate our own suffering (and to alleviate the suffering of those other people who might really need to connect to us.)  We might apply the adjective “lovable” or “worthy” to ourselves in order to counteract the pernicious effects of “unlovable” and “unworthy.” This can help us open up to ourselves and to those around us. But we must be careful about clinging to those terms, and insisting that everyone else use those terms in respect to us. Remember: the goal is to free the mind from limitations, not to establish the absolutely correct adjective.

In terms of the Buddhist path, the adjective “permanent” is considered unhealthy and “impermanent” is considered healthy. “Permanent” limits our ability to change and respond to the flow of our experience, while “impermanent” encourages us to let go of old opinions and reactions and respond more flexibly.  The adjective “independent” is considered unhealthy and “interdependent” is considered healthy.  “Independent” limits our ability to connect to what’s around us, while “interdependent” encourages us to explore the multiplicity of connections. It’s important to remember, as we practice negating the unhealthy adjecive, that the healthy adjective is not “true” either.  Ultimately all objects are beyond description, not limited by the tiny word-boxes of adjectives that we attempt to force them into.

When you let go of adjectives, all the phenomena dancing around you are fine: you’re free.  When the mind is free, all of the objects of your experience become richness.  You can see the beauty of all of them.  – The Bad Lama

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Christine permalink
    March 19, 2013 9:33 am

    Very useful article about letting go preconceptions !!!

  2. September 21, 2013 1:07 pm

    I love/hate the opposite thing. It is an opening to perception and release. Thank you for sharing this technique…..

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