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Just off the Port Bow—a place of uncertainty, adventure, and insight. Thank you for your ears, eyes and hearts. I hope to bring compassion, grace and beauty to your day.

The Characteristics of Life - I plead the Fourth!

One of my dharma readings for this week addressed the ancient Buddhist teaching of The Three Characteristics of Life.

Suffering - the pervasive truth of our moment to moment experience and reaction.
Impermanence - the rising and falling, coming and going nature of all things
Self-lessness - the unreality of the reactive "self"

I nodded in agreement as I worked through the discussion of the first two. These I find enormously helpful, and patently accurate. From my sore shoulder to the falling leaves outside, suffering and impermanence mark the nature of all things.

The third characteristic offers both helpful and unhelpful guidance. I am learning how true it is that much of what I consider "my-self" is nothing but conditioned reaction. The operating persona, which is Peter Pierson, is not really my true self. It is response, reaction, attachment, desire, fear, and anger (and a multitude of other things). All of it I have called mine. "I am angry." "I am confused." "I am afraid." "I am a mess." I have created an identity out of reactivity.

No wonder I have been often unsure of "who I am" in this or that circumstance. No wonder my inner social confidence is so shaky.

I am not my emotions. I am not my responses. I am not my thoughts. I am not my fears. I am not even my body (with all of its own reactivity).

Who am I?

Here I would add a Fourth Characteristic of Life, which should probably be listed as the First.

I am Beloved.

Whatever else might or might not be true about me, this one thing I know.

Now, I would express this is religious terms. I believe that I am a creature beloved by his Creator. It is this core belief which nurtures the compassion I have toward others.

To express this in non-religious terms one must depend on some sort of community. I am part of this or that community or family, and know that I am unconditionally loved in that context.

I suppose it is possible for someone to say that they simply love themselves (though this, it seems to me, is psychically convoluted. (If the self is simply reactivity, then is it lovable?)

It has been four years since I first encountered Mindfulness teaching. This reading, which seems to dismiss the self as irredeemable reactivity does not strike me as helpful.

Add a fourth characteristic, The Belovedness of the Self, and I am 100% on board.


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Addendum to The Characteristics

Grace upon Grace (starting all over again...and again...)