Vivid Cardboard Cutouts

 

During the first sitting period this morning, I thought my partner had sat down further down the row of zabutan’s next to the wall. I could see her clearly in my peripheral vision, noticed how she had a noticeable lean forward, and made a mental note of mentioning it to her later – maybe with some helpful tips on sitting posture(!). Throughout the sitting period, I occasionally brought attention to her in my peripheral vision, and could even see the deep burgundy color of her sweater there in the semi-darkness.

The bell rang, I stretched a little to either side, looked over at her, and realized she was sitting on the row behind me! What I had taken as her was a combination of outlines of zafus and a black office chair on one of the zabutans!

My image of her – superimposed on this composition of outlines – was so vivid, and the collapse of my whole fantasy so complete, that this was a very good reminder of the power of believing in abstractions. There is a thought or idea arising, a belief in it, and it seems so incredibly real. Until it does not – and then it all falls like a house of cards.

We place a cardboard cutout onto something, take it for real, act as if it is real, and this all creates very real consequences. And the most well-used cardboard cutout we carry around is that of “I”, of a self that we superimpose on a wide variety of always changing phenomena – from sensations and feelings to thoughts and a sense of center.

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