A Path to Non-Attachment
I came from a very dark place recently. During this time, my mind was attached to a series of thoughts. The more I focused on each thought the stronger they became; and even more thoughts came to fill my mind in support. Judgments began to fill me with anger, frustration, resentments and a whole host of other feelings and emotions that supported these thoughts. They became so overwhelming that I could not think of anything else. I would flow in and out of this sea of suffering, never really being able to let it go, to detach.
As I remained attached to these thoughts, a story began to arise out of the suffering. The suffering had taken on a life of its own. The story began to support the thoughts in a way that made me right. The ego arose and said, "You are right, you deserve better. You should not have to suffer like this. It’s THEIR fault and you are right." The more I focused on the story, the bigger it became and the more I suffered. The suffering became unbearable and I began to fight with it. Why am I doing this to myself? How could I stop it?
"Yes, how could I stop it?" the mind said, "Since it’s their fault, you must tell them how wrong they are; you must make them see the errors of their ways. Besides, you are RIGHT," it kept saying. "Just look at all these examples of how wrong they are and how many times it has happened, yes, yes of course you are right. They must see it too, why wouldn’t they, it was so obvious."
The story kept growing and growing; as it did, it became so real. Of course I was right, look at all this proof. How can it be? How can I be so right and still be suffering?
Here was the suffering ego: craving to be right, pulling out event after event proving its case. Oh, how I was wallowing in it. It’s as if some part of me loved it while another part hated it. What do I do? Help me, please help me.
After four days floating in this sea of suffering, something happened. Something inside me started saying STOP, this is not right, you don’t have to suffer. All you have to do is let go, detach from the thoughts. Allow them to come because they will, but let me go. Become the observer, don’t take ownership. Focus on what you want. See the beauty around you. BE GRATEFUL! Feel the truth in your heart and let the pain go. You are alive. Your life is a gift.
“Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.” -The Dalai Lama at Harvard, 1988, Snow Lion USA, p.37
One of the core teachings in Buddhism is non-attachment. I am not a Buddhist, however I find the teachings to be very powerful, particularly the ones on non-attachment. The quote above states very clearly that if we do not become attached to someone, something or even an idea then we will not suffer. I have experienced a great deal of suffering in my life and it has always come because of attachment.
“Overcoming attachment does not mean becoming cold and indifferent. On the contrary, it means learning to have relaxed control over our mind through understanding the real causes of happiness and fulfillment, and this enables us to enjoy life more and suffer less.” -Kathleen McDonald, "How to Meditate"
Let me tell you how I began to move out of my suffering this time. First, I had to recognize that I was suffering. That may sound funny but it’s true. We can often feel the suffering but we can become so wrapped up in the story that we cannot see it as suffering. Just like an alcoholic that does not think he or she has a problem, even when everyone else sees it. In my case, the mind began to weave a story telling me how right I was and even though I was in pain I felt justified, which prolonged my suffering. We all suffer as long as we need to, or, should I say, as long as we are willing to suffer before we can begin letting go. Then a moment of clarity will come and when it does you will recognize that you do not want to suffer anymore. Sometimes this will happen quickly and other times it will take much longer.
Here is a simple tool that helped me begin to detach. It is called a Mantra or Mantram as it is sometimes referred to. The word Mantra is a Sanskrit word combining the two syllables: man, meaning mind, and tra translated as deliverance. A Mantra is used for several different things depending on the tradition. But in all cases I believe it is to become more centered, peaceful and connected on a spiritual level. You may have heard of OM or AH which are used in chanting.
I have found that you can use anything that has meaning for you. You do not have to chant aloud just repeat the word or short phrase to yourself. I have even visualized a rose, seeing the petals, and then imagining what they feel like and how it smells. My favorite however is to use a word that brings the meaning of creation into my mind. For example: God, Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, Allah or any other word that has power in it for you. Maybe it’s Divine Source. Do not get caught up in the words; again just use something that has meaning for you like your child’s name.
As I begin to do this in any uncomfortable situation whether in the moment or sometime after my moment of clarity, I begin to feel a sense of peace come over me. My thoughts begin to calm. Am I always able to stay in this space? Not always in the beginning, but when practiced it becomes easier. Over time, it will affect permanent change.
If you are still having trouble -- as I did this time -- step into gratitude. This is a powerful transformational state. It is hard to stay upset when you move into gratitude. Just start being grateful for everything good in your life, even for the smallest things, like sunshine, or rain, or a flower. Finally, I leave you with this wonderful quote from Eknath Easwaran:
“The question we may well ask is, “If we are to have neither pleasure nor pain in life, are we not likely to become insensitive to the joy of life?” This doubt arises from a wrong assumption, that there is only pleasure and pain and nothing else. Always cutting things up into two classes – everything must be either this or that – is one of the fatal weaknesses of the intellect. Because of this dualistic trap, we find it difficult to understand that the rare person who is able to receive good fortune without getting excited, and bad fortune without getting depressed, lives in abiding joy.”
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