Jack Kornfield – Ep. 51 – Identity and Freedom

Identity

Jack delivers a talk on how identity leads us to suffer and shares the Buddha’s path towards freedom from that suffering.

The Buddha’s teachings are a path to end suffering. Part of this is our identity, which is caused by our clinging to impermanence. Jack shares these teachings, along with an ethical system which enables us to let go of our suffering by living with integrity.

Show Notes

Creating A Space (Opening) – Jack speaks to the importance of finding a place where you can listen to yourself in a deeper way. Every wise culture in the world knows that we need time to go out into nature, creating a space where you can listen to your heart and your body for a rhythm.

The Presence of Eternity (2:15) – Sometimes the question is not about the future of humanity, but the presence of eternity. Are we connected to something that is timeless and great that gives us an understanding of how to live in this mysterious life?

“It seems as although we thought ourselves permanent, we are not. Although we thought ourselves settled, we are not. Although we thought we would last forever, we will not.”

– Buddha

Identity (4:30) – The question of identity is at the heart of much spiritual tradition. The Buddha says that liberation allows you to move through the world without clinging, without grasping without being entangled with other things in this world.

“Wisdom says I am nothing; love says I am everything. Between these two, my life flows.”

Nothing is permanent, everything in life is here today and gone tomorrow. Grasping at what is impermanent is part of what causes suffering. A way to avoid this is to turn our attention from experience as it happens and turn inward. Turning back to the one that knows; back into consciousness.

Who Do You Think You Are? (9:55) – Jack addresses our true nature. Our body exists in time, but the consciousness that observes is outside of time.

Who do you think you are? Are you the eggs you ate for breakfast? Are you your accomplishments or haircut? When we don’t identify with our grasping, there comes a joy and ease that you can move through the world in a liberated way. This is described in the first teachings of the Buddha which discuss suffering. He teaches that there is a cause to suffering and a path to the end of suffering.

Sharing (15:00) – Sharing with others is a way to keep our grasping at bay. By sharing with others, you shift your identity from ‘mine’ and ‘me.’ This allows you to expand who you are and share with others.

“You’re just an accountant in the firm anyway, you don’t own this stuff.”

 – Ram Dass

Jack tells stories from Larry Brilliant and Sharon Salzberg about the virtues of sharing.

Sīla (19:45) – By living with integrity and virtue, known in Pali as sīla, we free ourselves from the power of fear and grasping. In doing so, we shift our identity from fear to one of reverence in life.

Integrity is the growing of the heart and mind, a change in identity. Part of this integrity is taking care of ourselves. We do this by caring for others without belittling ourselves.

Samadhi (24:50) – Samadhi means concentration as well as calming the mind. While sitting or walking, you will find your mind scattered. As you sit and begin to practice, there comes a shift of identity from the torrent of thoughts. You start to let yourself get calmer and clearer.

In your concentration, look for moments of ease and simplicity. Remind yourself of the little things in life that make you happy. Little by little, you begin to experience more and more of these moments of ease.

Paññā (31:20) – Paññā is the ethic of wisdom and mindfulness. The Buddha says that eating, sitting, and standing are all opportunities to practice this quality of mindfulness.

 

“My friends, there is a most wonderful way for living beings to realize purification; overcome grief and sorrow; end pain and anxiety. Travel the true path and realize liberation of heart and mind.”

– Buddha

Jack walks through a loving awareness meditation. This is a valuable meditation for practicing mindfulness. He also addresses the feelings and thoughts that come up during this practice and how to move past them.

How Do You Carry Suffering? (48:45) – We all carry our suffering. The question is how do you carry that suffering? Do you take it personally, by fighting and struggling? Is there a way that you can carry it with dignity and a free heart?

“Overcome any bitterness, because you are not up to the magnitude and the pain that was entrusted to you. Like the mother of the world, each of us is sharing a part of her heart. Therefore, each human being is endowed with a certain measure of cosmic pain. You are called upon to meet it with compassion instead of self-pity.”

– Sufi teaching

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Photo via Bryan Thomas Clark