Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Preferences

Someone is speaking to me. A person I don’t like. He talks too much. Inside I squirm. Outside I appear attentive and smile. I even nod or grunt agreement occasionally, all the while looking for a graceful and quick, but to my chagrin, nonexistent exit. I am lost in my antipathy to the situation. Anger and resentment rear their heads in me. My desire to reject being here challenges me. I feel stuck in this moment, in this place…

Or I am caught in a traffic jam, frustrated at the interminable delay. Or the bakery, to my disappointment, has sold out of my favorite pastry. Or the drain suddenly clogs and I must clear it somehow and my plans for the next hour or two must be suspended — unhappily. Or I finally get a slice of that cake and as I greedily eat a second slice my belly already begins to protest.

Like opinions, we need our preferences to live a normal, full life. Delicious food is to be relished and appreciated. And like opinions, our freedom may be measured in part by the degree to which we do not cling to our preferences.

Can we relax when held up in traffic? Or do our preferences drive us? Since no one can control his or her life so completely as to never experience an unwanted situation, liberation lies in the direction of freedom in front of preferences. Not freedom from preferences. That would make us and life dull indeed. But rather, we seek the ability to not be driven by preferences when unavoidable situations run counter to them, to not lose ourselves in the inevitable frustration.

Notice when your preferences enslave you. Do you have your preferences or do they have you? Can you fully let go of particular preferences when necessary? If you can be free in the distasteful and awkward moments, in the grasping and rejecting moments, then a natural joy can infuse your life and your heart of kindness can open to your neighbor, warts and all.


     

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