There is a Chinese saying called “Huo De Ming Bai” – “to live with a clear mind”. Normally it means to have a clear goal or goals, and that will be what we live for. Some people live for a career, some people live for love, someone else lives for his/her child… But sometimes, the goals may confuse us or even hurt us when the result is not or is not going to be what we long for. We should have a goal, but don’t regard it as a piece of “last gold”. We should take care of what we have owned, but don’t expect to have a “still” life. When we are going to grasp something we desire, the tension will be born from it. When we want to keep something we love, the fear will invade your mind. In fact, the goal itself will not bring stress or afflictions, but our understanding and attitude about the goal will.
Like watching the football match, we enjoy the “Goal!” moment, and also the process to make that goal. We should see that the “Goal!” is part of the moments of the whole process. We think the “Goal!” is important because we cling to “win or fail”, but the “Goal!” itself is just a “Goal!” moment.
So what is really happening during the process of “setting up” a goal and achieving a goal? For instance, on a hot summer day, we are walking on the street. When we have an eye contact with a bottle of coke with ice (consciousness or awareness), we can identify that it is a cool drink (perception), and then we’ll have a pleasant feeling with “cool” and may become even more thirsty (feeling), then we intend to have it and drink it. If there’s not any “hold back” condition, we’ll transform this desire into reality (volition). And during the process to take that bottle of coke, first we stretch arm and are aware of the stretching (consciousness or awareness), then we identify that the motion is “stretching ” (perception), if there’s not any difficulty to stretch, our feeling is indifferent of happiness or unhappiness (feeling), then we just want to keep this motion until touching the bottle of coke (volition)…then into a new cycle of process. So before we “set up” a goal (volition and its potential follow-up), the “awareness, perception and feeling” one after another lead the flow of mind to come to a goal. They are just a continuous mental forms interacted with physical forms.
While the problem is that we have an illusion that we think there’s a “self”(an independent inherent ego) in each form of this process - “I” see/stretch, “I” identify, “I” feel and “I” intent to do…but virtually among these ever changing forms, no such a “I” can be pointed out. It is just a process with dynamic impersonal functions. If there’s no “self” to be clung to or loved, there will be nothing to grasp and keep for “self”. This will bring the attitude of equanimity, which will help us overcome the emotional disturbance on “win or fail”.
But in the end, only when we can experience these processes directly and clearly through mindfulness, are we able to free from the risk of “self” trap.
* Note: according to Buddha’s teaching. The physical forms and mental forms are called “Five Aggregates”: form (physical forms), feeling, perception, volition/mental formation, and consciousness.