Buddhadharma places a lot of emphasis on being mindful of our preferences. When we start to pay attention to our preferences, we quickly notice that we prefer what’s pleasant, what will make us happy. There is nothing wrong per se with having preferences, but our attachment to, clinging to, and identifying with our preferences is the source of a lot of our dukkha (suffering). Our fixation on getting our preferences leads to the creation of stress and tension in our lives. But through the practice of mindfulness, we can start to see the addictive power of preferences and how they can control and mislead us.
Why do preferences have such power over us? Partly it’s because our nervous systems are conditioned by past experiences to automatically deliver what we prefer, so we don’t even think about it much of the time. Our preferences become habituated based on what we perceive to be pleasant. When a habitual preference is denied us, then we assume we’re unhappy, which may or may not be true. As we start to see our preferences for what they are, just preferences, we begin to realize that we have many more choices in how we meet each moment of life than what our preferences dictate. We still have preferences, but we begin to develop a wise relationship with our preferences, such that our sense of well-being is not contingent upon them being met.
Mindfulness Practice for Letting Go of Habitual Preferences
-Set aside 15 minutes during your mindfulness meditation practice one day to just notice how many preferences arise within that span of time.
-In your daily life, watch your mind as it starts to react to not getting what it prefers and notice any clinging that arises.
-In what way are these preferences serving you? Reflect on whether they might be habitual preferences.
-Practice letting go of habitual preferences. Begin by practicing with small things.
The more you practice mindfulness of your preferences, a natural separation from your preferences happens. Sooner or later, the illusion of preferences is dispelled.