I never met my grandfather on my father’s side of the family. He died just two years before I was born. Despite this, some things that he said lives on in my memory and I hope to pass them on to my own children one day. There is one particular quote of his that has really fired up my neurons many times.
“That which you can dispense of, you own”
My father said it a lot. At first I didn’t understand what it meant but even when I eventually thought I did some other, different interpretation of the saying always seemed to pop into mind. Those words depicted the constraints of the human psyche on a far deeper level than they seemed to at a first glance. What does it mean to dispense of something? Indeed, what does it even mean to own something? To me the expression is about the definition of ownership. I interpret it somewhere along the lines of “To own something is to control something and if you can resist the urge to control something you effectively own it since what happens to that something is of no concern to you any longer”. You’ve probably heard said about possessions that they tend to end up owning you instead of the opposite. My grandfather’s quote turns that on its head and says that if you truly want to own something, the first thing you need to own is your thoughts about that thing.
In most meditational practices you learn how to notice thoughts as they enter your mind. Some argue that there is no such thing as a self and that these small fleeting glimpses of ideas is all that we truly are. That we have no free will in a sense. According to theories along these lines all we can really do at any given moment is to notice our impulses as they pass by. The only alternative is to not be present and give in to them. Take the impulse of craving for instance. All you can do, at a deeper level, is notice the impulse. Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to overcome your desires and gain a little control, a little ownership. In this sense you truly own what you don’t desire. Arguably, this form of ownership is even purer than that in which you physically own something that you don’t really need.
Be mindful of your cravings, for they might end up craving your time. Time is, by the way, is the only thing of real value you have.