"That's mine!", claimed he. "No, it's not, it's mine!", retorted she. How ridiculous!
We have a habit of claiming ownership of something - or someone. Ownership comes with a price tag: expectation and control. The result is unhappiness. Here are four examples of what we think we own: our past, our work, our people and our thoughts.
A painful experience may have long gone but we still think that it's ours. If somebody expresses sympathy, saying they understand how we feel, we may get irritated: how can they really understand my pain when they have never suffered it? And because it's my pain, I want to control it and rewrite it - making it better so I can live with it and feel happier. Alas, not only can we not change it, but we end up enslaved to past memories and are unable to move on. Given that happiness can only be found in the present moment, if we still live in the past, how can we be truly happy here and now?
For some people, work represents who they are. So when this work is about to be passed on to a colleague, they feel threatened, believing it's theirs and that no one else can do this job better than they can. This reminds me of a story, told by my meditation teacher, about the CEO rooster. This rooster sang cock-a-doodle-doo every morning before sunrise. He believed that because of his voice, the sun came up. No other rooster would be able to raise the sun like he did. Every day he did his job loudly, proudly and faithfully until one day he fell gravely ill. Summoning all his family to the bedside, he told them to be prepared for the worst because after tomorrow nobody would be able to wake up the sun. The world would be in complete darkness. The following morning, he gathered all his strength and bellowed out his last mighty crow till he coughed, choked and died. The next day another rooster sang out cock-a-doodle-doo and, lo and behold, the sun rose. As it has done ever since.
When we consider ourselves all important like the CEO rooster, we are kidding ourselves. There will always be another rooster, and the sun will rise with or without us. Some people take the possessive pronouns 'my', 'mine', 'our', 'ours' to an extreme, leading to bullying or jeopardising the potential of others by making them look inadequate. At the end what they gain is nothing - as the CEO rooster story illustrates.
Third, we automatically think we own people we love: our partner, our children, our family, our friends. Thus we demand that they should be like this, do that, be loving and attentive all the time, side with us when we argue with someone, do better in school - or anything else that pleases us. Some even expect their spouses to dress, speak or behave in a certain way, forgetting that others also have their own 'me and mine' that they need to attend to or pamper with. An aspired loving relationship may start to look shaky once too many 'mes' and 'mines' get in the way.
Finally, our thoughts can consume us. We believe in them so firmly that nobody else should think otherwise or we will challenge them to a heated debate. This 'my and mine' become more obvious when we are angry. If you look at your anger, which part of the body is angry? The chest, arms, legs, head? The head is throbbing with too much blood rushing to it, the arms and legs may be shaking, the heart is pumping faster, but are any of them angry? No. The anger is in the mind, the source of all angry thoughts, unable to let go and therefore consumed by its own thoughts.
If we insert 'my', 'mine,' 'our' and 'ours' to anything or anyone, we become attached to them. It all started from when we were given a name, whether Jack or Jill. We responded to our name, identified with it and were told that it had a family - and it owned some toys. Then it wanted more toys and more pampering. These troublesome pronouns may signify ownership but in reality our body doesn't own anything. The body itself belongs to nature and is subject to the laws of nature: growing, ageing, suffering and dying. All that we think we own will one day be left behind - they are not ours, nor are they under our control. And as for those pesky pronouns, let them be. Free the mind from possessive thoughts, feelings and emotions and let the mind be at peace!