Skillful Thinking: Letting Go: Clinging to People, Experiences, and Beliefs

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 60-63)

Our mind creates three different realms that seem to constitute the whole of reality.  This reality consists of an outside world, our body, and our mind.  We think that that there is an “inner self” that experiences this reality.  As we practice mindfulness, we come to realize that this “reality” is just another thought or phenomenon that arises in the mind and that the “inner self” is also just a thought.  We move from what seems to be to what is.

In the previous talk we discussed thoughts about material objects and how our attachment to them causes suffering.  Likewise, our thoughts about relationships, experiences including our body and mind, and beliefs will cause suffering if we are attached to them.  Attachment means that we think we own or can control them to attain our preferred outcome.

Clinging to people (relationships) and physical form

Clinging in relationships, even good ones, is something to be aware of because it causes suffering.  We may call it love.  However, this is love in the sensual sense. We aren’t loving but want to be loved or in control.  True love is defined as the refusal to separate, to make distinctions.  Love is the will to share your happiness with all.  (Nisargadatta)  In other words, unconditional love.

There is also attachment to our physical form; the motivation being that we can be more attractive to others or be immortal.  Our body is always changing; we have no control over that process.  We cannot control our sensations.  The next sensation might be pleasant or unpleasant.  All we can do is be aware of potential clinging to these thoughts about our body.

Clinging to Experiences

As noted above, all of our experiences seem to come from three “reality” concepts:   the outside world, the body and the mind.  With mindfulness, we see that all phenomena arise share the three characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness.  Experiences only exist as memories.  In essence, what are we clinging to?  Just thoughts and memories.

Clinging to beliefs

As we go through life, we accumulate beliefs about things.  We don’t realize that beliefs are just thoughts and when we get attached to them, we suffer.  Through holding beliefs, we become more rigid and inflexible.  We lose our freedom.  Rather than rely on beliefs to guide our lives, we can look more deeply and turn to core values as a broader way of living.

Here is an example of a set of 7 core values from Dancing with Life by Phillip Moffitt:

  1. Knowing the truth
  2. Finding freedom
  3. Not causing harm to yourself or others
  4. Being of service to others
  5. Meeting the world with compassion and kindness
  6. Having the qualities of gratitude, patience, persistence, generosity, and humor
  7. Continuing to learn and grow psychologically and spiritually

Can you relate to these?   Do you have additional ones?

The core values of knowing the truth and finding freedom support realistic perception.  This includes taking the stand of “knowing that I do not know.”  Fixed beliefs hinder us from knowing the truth.


  • Examine through mindfulness your thoughts about clinging to people (relationships) and physical form, experiences and beliefs. What do you find?

Next: Skillful Thinking: Letting Go: Dealing with Fear
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