Learning & Practice

Satipatthana Sutta Study: Independent and Without Clinging

"Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free."

— Thich Nhat Hanh

In this lesson, we will explore the concept of being "independent and without clinging," as described in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

The Meaning of "Independent and Without Clinging"

To be "independent and without clinging" reflects a mental state free from attachments or clinging, including not clinging to sensory experiences, thoughts, emotions, and mental objects. By developing an attitude of non-attachment, we observe the impermanent nature of all things and see that clinging to the ever-changing aspect of our experience leads to suffering. Through this understanding, we cultivate greater equanimity, understanding, and compassion within our practice and life.

Cultivating a Healthier Sense of Self and Lessening Unhealthy Ego Attachment

Through the practice of non-attachment, we grow our capacity to be more aware of how our ego sometimes seeks validation, security, and comfort in unbeneficial ways. By letting go of unhealthy desires, aversions, and views, we begin to loosen the grip of the unhealthy ego attachment that keeps us stuck in cycles of craving, aversion, and non-wakefulness.

Through our practice, we develop a healthier sense of self, not defined by external circumstances or our reactions to them. We benefit ourselves and others by becoming more empowered to respond to life in ways that reduce harm. We then experience a deeper connection with ourselves and the world around us, free from the constraints imposed by our ego.

Independent and Without Clinging: Lessening Identification with Thoughts, Emotions, and Views

One of the most powerful functions of mindfulness practice is that it increases our ability to observe our thoughts, emotions, and views without identifying with them. We see the impermanent and interdependent nature of all things; we see how this view is realized through the practice of being independent and without clinging.

Over time, we become increasingly able to see our thoughts and emotions as impermanent, constantly changing phenomena that do not define our true nature. This recognition helps us disentangle ourselves from the stories we tell ourselves and the views we hold, enabling us to live with greater wakefulness, freedom, understanding, and compassion.

Seclusion and Taking Refuge

When we practice in a way that is "independent and without clinging," we become more "secluded" from our "doings" and our habitual way of reacting to life experience. We turn toward and take refuge in our Buddha nature and Dharma practice. Seclusion, in this sense, does not necessarily mean physical isolation but refers to a mental state of being undisturbed by our inner and outer world distractions and disturbances.

By taking refuge in the part of us that is wiser and more compassionate, we cultivate a greater sense of stability and peace, independent of external inner and outer conditions that can hinder us. We better navigate the complexities of life and respond with understanding and care.

Cultivating Greater Self-Awareness, Self-Development, Health, Well-being, Wakefulness, and Liberation

By practicing "independent and without clinging," we better understand ourselves, others, and our world. As we let go of unhealthy attachments, we cultivate greater mindfulness; we understand our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Our increased understanding leads to self-development as we learn to respond to life with wisdom and compassion rather than from our habitual patterns of seeing and being. We realize greater health and well-being by reducing stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions often arising from attachment and clinging.

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