Tomorrow we will be exploring the last of the four distortion. It is mistakenly thinking the unattractive is attractive. Another way of saying it is seeing the unlovely as lovely. Often people have a problem with whether this even makes sense as a distortion. We can understand the first three – misperceptions. It seems reasonable that “mistaking the impermanent as permanent”, “seeking satisfaction from that which cannot satisfy” and “believing something is personal when it is not” are signs of distortions. As practitioners we accept, and trust even if purely on an intellectual level, that all phenomena is impermanent, that conditioned things cannot satisfy us and that our life circumstances and experiences are not personal. These are the three characteristics of existence and we are reminded about them over and over again.
But what about this misperception of the lovely. Is Buddha really saying that even our appreciation of beauty is a distortion? No – that is not how I see this distortion. Attraction is a very strong mental energy. Whatever we are attracted to we are drawn to. We tend to only see the beauty in that which we are attracted to. But in reality – all things lovely are also unlovely. Everything we are attracted to also has an unattractive aspect. No matter how beautiful a flower is, it will eventually decay and die. No matter how spectacular a sunrise or sunset, it will eventually pass. No matter how beautiful the body, we will all decay, get bloated and die. The idea is to make sure your perception of lovely is not lopsided. The distortion is not seeing or accepting the unlovely in the lovely, the unattractiveness in the attractive, the ugly in the beautiful. This is not meant to minimize the lovely, attractive or beautiful but rather to appreciate it fully within its realistic limitations. We stop, appreciate the beauty of the flower, the sunrise or sunset and then let it pass.
The main practice to see this distortion is to see the unattractiveness of the body. The more we are able to see the limitations of the things that attract us the most, the freer we become. Think of something you are drawn to. Can you see it’s limitations. Is there suffering? What would it mean if you saw both the attraction and its unattractiveness simultaneously? We’ll delve more into this tomorrow night. Until then…