This was not something I could have thought of on my own. Yet it seemed to be true. I could identify with my body, my feelings, my perceptions, my thoughts, my consciousness. But it was possible to observe identification as it happened, or to feel it happening and then let go of it. I experimented with this in my meditations. It was not so hard to locate the sense of identification, nor was it particularly difficult to release it. Trivial events triggered minor realizations.

At one of my first meditation retreats, for example, the woman sitting next to me, a friend of Joseph's named Kishorri who was wrapped in an Indian schmatta, leaned over to request that I breathe a little more quietly. Momentarily insulted, I nevertheless tuned in to how I was straining in my efforts to pay attention to my breath. I realized then that if I could just let the breath breathe me, I did not have to be in charge. Everything carried on fine without me.


This was a little unnerving, like dreams I have had where I could suddenly breathe under water. My identification was like food coloring in water. It did not change the substance of things but completely altered its appearance. "Wait a minute," I would think after suddenly glimpsing how my process continued without me. "How it this possible?" It is a strange feeling not to be needed. But this was unexpectedly liberating: it led me to a lighter touch. Bitten by the Buddha bug, I began to open myself to this in an ongoing way.

Rather than struggle against my experience by feeling sorry for myself or fearing my insecurities, I now had a stance or posture, an approach to life that guided me. Relieved of some impinging sense of responsibility for everything, I became much more able to allow experiences to unfold as they did. Less judgmental toward my own emotional responses and less invested in always maintaining control, my interior life became more textured and nuanced as I relaxed my grip and began to feel more at home in my body.

I saw that my feelings arose together with my awareness, but that it was possible to take the me-ness out of those feelings, to make light of them. I sensed this lightness both literally and figuratively, in the buoyant quality of some of my mediations but also in my growing capacity for humor. I did not need to, nor could I, stop my most disturbing feelings from arising, but I could use my observing awareness, my mindfulness, to create a sense of space even around them.

Deepening my experience of myself, I felt, at the same time, relieved of a heavy burden. I became more interested in investigation than in control, less sure of myself in some ways but more willing to explore whatever I was experiencing. If fear was only a feeling that I did not have to identify with, what did I have to be frightened of? A cliché, perhaps, but life suddenly seemed much more liveable. I did not think of Buddhism as a religion, but I had discovered faith.