In society, we define attachment as “a feeling that binds one to a person, thing, cause, ideal, or the like; devotion; regard.” In psychology it is defined as “a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space.” Those definitions sound positive and desirable.
In spirituality, attachment has a different view. That “binding emotional feeling” could potentially be a trauma, when the receiver of such affection is no longer there or there is the danger that it may not be there anymore. Great emotional suffering is experienced by the unaware individual which could even affect his mental health.
There is nothing wrong with bonding with individuals or to have devotion to certain ideals or things as long as we remain stable, centered. Most will lose their stability when their object of attachment is not there anymore.
Spirituality observes the potential trauma of that experience and that is what this article will explore.
Life IS change. We know that intellectually. Practically, we may not.
What is attachment? In general, when an emotional need arises. This need has the power to be a trauma in our lives.
What is a trauma? When our beliefs, ideas and ideals are in conflict with what IS. That conflict is an internal rejection which is emotionally stored mostly in our subconscious, and giving us a view of Life with a biased perspective. In this way, the past, what happened IS still part of our present even though the past is gone.
We have attachments to ideas, beliefs, ideals. We have attachment to situations, circumstances. When someone close to us goes away, our circumstance will change. When we say that we are attached to someone, we are attached to the feeling of need being temporarily fulfilled by someone.
To be able to feel attachment in variable degrees of neediness, will allow us to feel it, which is very important to practically “know” attachment.
There is attachment to what we consider “self” and the sensations that this will bring. For instance, if I am an avid swimmer and I cannot swim for whatever reason, then the sensations of not being able to swim will be bothersome. If this need becomes emotional, then we may say that we are attached to swimming; but in reality, we are attached to the sensation that it brings. It is not the exercise itself bringing “addiction” but the sensation it leaves, which is very subjective.
Attachments will not allow us to become a witness of Life. Without witnessing Life, we cannot experience freedom.
How to deal with attachment?
In our society, attachments are expected and supported. They are “normal.” We may need to forget stereotypes or conditioned moral teachings to look and find attachments in our own lives. That is what takes more involvement from a seeker.
Very few will do that and recognize attachments as potential traumas.
Therefore, for the few who may be ready, here goes my “recipe:”
First and foremost, to OBSERVE that (whatever it is we find as attachment) in ourselves. To be able to see it there, without any masks or pretty words to hide it, without any judgment. Many times we may realize those after the fact, when we recall the experience after some time.
Second, to OBSERVE it in action. Life will bring a particular episode and we will react to it. Catch it there. It is important to FEEL it. Just to use words to make sense of it; will not allow us to truly see. Remember that the important item is how we FEEL in front of some Life episode. It is that feeling alone the one that brings the sensation of need, of being unable to be without. That is attachment.
Third and last, a deep feeling of the following fact of Life:
Life is change. Life is unpredictable. Life is temporary. Life is unexpected. Thus, it is impossible to possess something. Everything goes away. Do we see this as a fact?
Then it follows that everything; every experience, every person who crosses our path, every possession is borrowed from Life. The reality of impermanence is there, despite any social laws or rights which may bring us a sense of security.
Note that I am not inferring that a spiritual person must not possess things to avoid suffering. That is an infantile understanding which interestingly, many religious faiths will follow.
I am saying that while having things, experiences, circumstances, beliefs, ideas, etc. know that we are “borrowing” them. Life is leasing us something for a temporary time. That could be a wonderful wife/husband, a great job, our excellent health, etc. It is all “leased” to us for a temporary period. Those things are meant to eventually go away. We should keep that in mind, for it is a fact of Life. This is not meant to bring worry or despair. A tourist travels around. He is not meant to stay in a particular place. The same is with us. The joy of being a tourist is the freedom to travel, to know and try new things and that means to stay in continuous movement, in change. Just like Life. The important thing is to keep the stable center within.
With the understanding of the above, then we will pay attention to the intention of using the word “Mine.” In society we may need to use that word to deal with people, but know deep inside that we meant “leased,” “borrowed.” This sense of FEELING how everything is borrowed, will open the door to the witness. The one who doesn’t need to choose in Life, for everything whether coming or going; is meant to be appreciated as it IS. A witness is the ultimate way to appreciate Life.
Go left or go right. We will get to the same place eventually. Life is not a race. There is no prize or destination. It is a journey.
Therefore, appreciate the trip.
When attachment decreases, for sure our emotional stability increases.
Will resume writing on April 30th. Enjoy! 🙂
“You said that attachment is the origin of suffering. The Buddha said that the root cause of suffering is desire. That is the second “Noble Truth” in Buddhism. There is a vast difference between desire and attachment. Do you think that you have the truth and Buddha does not?”
Thank you for your question.
No. Ahnanda does not preach truth. He only shares his experiences and realizations.
Take a look at the link below:
Here is a quote from that website: The cause of suffering is: “the attachment to the desire to have (craving) and the desire not to have (aversion)”.
What happened then? Perhaps this website has the “wrong” interpretation? Millions of people believe in what you said: “Desire is the cause of suffering.” However, that belief even though held by millions is plain and simple nonsense.
This problem arises when we believe what the book says, the guru, the expert without looking at our own experience.
Buddha did not say that. It was interpreted like that.
What millions know is only the interpretation, the translation of someone who may have many degrees, who may be very proficient in many languages, but who does not have the capacity yet for inner observation. Perhaps that was a Buddhist follower, maybe not.
Through that nonsense of getting rid of desire, many “spiritual” people are denying life to their own experience through the ideal of DOING what the Buddha “said.”
Misinterpretation is the mother of all scriptures. Please quote me on that.
Perhaps if you take a test in “introduction to Buddhism” you may have to choose: “Desire is the root of all suffering” as the “right” answer. You may score 100% because of that answer, but know that your “right” answer in the “Office World,” is not so in Life.
We could have many desires. As many as we want. Suffering will kick in when we are attached to a particular desire. That means that we may need to attain/possess the object of that desire to feel fulfilled in Life.
Nevertheless, let me share a “noble truth” with you. Attachment is not the true source of suffering, but the ONE who is attached is…. Yes, the “I.”
To intellectually understand the above, is not easy. Therefore, let us stick with “attachment.” But, if “attachment” is hard to perceive, then “desire” is an easy answer. It will sell many books. 🙂
So what do we take home from all this?
Any spiritual guru or any self-realized being including the “word of God,” are by nature, limited by language. In other words, to truly understand what they are trying to convey, we need to look at those words through the mirror of our own personal experience. If it does not make sense, then that is so for us at that moment. That is OK. Move on.
If it makes sense, then do not try to “practice it.” Allow for Life to work on you and go beyond the intellectual realization, by integrating THAT as part of you. Then, you know for you ARE that. BEING is KNOWING.
But if you don’t understand and you are simply following what someone is telling you to practice, then my friend; you are not being honest with yourself, with your current state of BEING.
You may want to be like Buddha, but you ARE not there yet.
Do you think that practice will get you there?
It can only distract you from what you ARE… until you are AWARE.
Thus, “practice” is an entertainment in the meantime. Nothing wrong with that. 🙂
Attachments at any level have a duality within. While we have the object of our attachments, we feel secure, safe, comfortable… Once those supports are gone, we will suffer. Life is change, so change is a matter of time.
Many times those attachments are part of our role in Life, as when a wife is psychologically attached to her husband: Her role gives her a sense of purpose. Once the husband is no longer there, unless she is ready to “redefine” herself, that is to change; suffering is unavoidable.
Similarly, we could attach to ideals and ideas. The pursue of an ideal even though glorified such as “peace,” is just an ideal. Many people will give their lives for those ideals. “I will fight for peace in the world.”
Interesting peaceful fighting. “I will practice non- violence (ahimsa) to rebel against the oppressors.”
Interesting contradiction: Rebellion as non-violence.
Our minds may find those ideas “feasible,” but Life will show us otherwise. Any change without a process is violent, although it could be hidden with a pretty ideal. A natural process blends in imperceptibly.
Change is everywhere, but we resist it. That resistance is called attachment.
“My” physical form changes. “My” relationships will change. “My” ideas will change. The ultimate attachment is to my perception of “I.”
It is that “I” the one creating attachments.
Through “spirituality for the masses,” an attachment is perceived as something which we can get rid of; as in “work on it” to “improve” and be “detached.” That is the intellectual game of words.
Just because we ACT as if a particular attachment is not there, it doesn’t mean that it is gone.
Every attachment that we could observe in us, has a purpose in our Life journey. Therefore, to think that “I must get rid of it now,” is a detrimental illusion. Change happens all the time, but “I” want to control what “I” want to change according to my belief or ideology.
That is utmost nonsense.
Observe that a particular attachment is there. Observe the triggers. Recognize the inner neediness. Be aware of how you feel.
The wife in the example, could care for another person as husband, then the attachment that could trigger suffering, will not be there. This is what naturally, many individuals will do (unless they have a social/belief hang up,) but there is a significant difference: They are not AWARE of their attachment, so the next experience, will be the same as before. However, when we are AWARE, CONSCIOUS we could go through Life and observe the moment when attachment appears and it is through the quality of that observation alone, how attachment dissolves naturally. This is known as BEING CONSCIOUS in Life.
“But that is not helpful at all! I want to change now, I want to get rid of this attachment which is making my Life impossible… I need to implement a solution, a cure… “
Observe your conditioning to believe that BEING can change through DOING something. The “cure” is there; but if you are not able to be AWARE of it, then you may need to read some self-help books, spiritual best sellers (Tip: Look for the how-to titles) and ask for advice to an “expert” who has studies to tell you what you have to DO with your life, for a “small” fee…
There is no one better than “you” to observe “you” and learn from “you.” 🙂
That which you think that shouldn’t happen or shouldn’t be or it is not right… that will happen to you.
That idea which you rejected, went against it, belittle it… you will be for it, sooner or later. Rejection is a form of attachment.
To go on one extreme of the experience, means to go into the other; equally, with the same intensity.
You may say: “ I will never do that in this Lifetime.” The guarantee is that “you” will do that in another Lifetime.
You could learn to control your Life to follow some ideals; to seclude yourself and be afraid of making mistakes… That type of Life is literally to die while alive.
Bottom line: “You” cannot control your destiny for “you” are one with it.
If you experience “cold,” you must experience “heat.”
You could label “cold” as bad, low, sin, etc. But your rejection of it, guarantees that you will experience it again.
“Heat” is good, high, pure, etc. Your pursue of it while trying to avoid “cold” is an illusion. “Cold” will be there as well, to remind you when “heat” diminishes.
Your experience of “cold” then, will be a source of guilt and shame.
The world is perfect as it is. Not because it is moral or immoral, good or bad, or any other qualifying word that we may use.
The word is perfect as it is for it will allow us to have a complete experience of all the opposites, of all the contradictions, of all the truths and lies, angels and demons, births and deaths…
That sort of richness of experiences will allow us to know, to grow, to be that insight of wisdom, when the time comes.
Life is to experience. Your destiny is not in selecting or choosing heat over cold… for you will experience both!
Thus, rather than labeling and taking sides, become completely aware of the experience, knowing that it will change, knowing that “you” will change.
Enjoy that experience, even if there is a sour strawberry in your plate.
It is just an experience. Don’t make a trauma of it. The sweet strawberry is coming up next… Don’t get attached to it… It will go away, just like the sour one… Rejection is also attachment. Just taste it, go through the complete range of experiences… become your taste buds without a mind with choices, moral problems and beliefs. Be “mind-less” to fully enjoy the moment…for that moment… is all there is.
Your happiness, peace and bliss are merely wrapping papers for the gift of Joy.
Without the gift, the wrapping papers are just … wrapping papers. 🙂
If our feelings could sense that Oneness, that unity not as different parts coming together, but as being the same thing…then how did we get into this separation mode?
Thoughts become fashionable.
It is truly a matter of “fashion.” For some individuals thinking is in fashion. Their perception of the Universe is mental. Usually these individuals do not allow themselves to experience something by feeling it, but just by thinking about it.
The day may be bright with clear skies, the sound of the birds may be the perfect orchestra in the background and someone may say: “ Nice day, isn’t it? I was missing days like this and I hope that they come more often…”
These individuals may put the emotional emphasis in the words “Nice day, isn’t it…” but then it becomes all talk, just like watching a sitcom … all about fast talk in an emotional tone where the “I” either feels uplifted or diminished.
Do we see that?
To just say “What a nice day!” without feeling it, is the demonstration of living life in our heads without a direct experience of life into our hearts.
We have become used to that. Many times what we “think” to be feelings are emotions instead.
“You’ve hurt my feelings…”
Not your feelings, but I pushed the button for your emotions to come up.
What is the difference between feelings and emotions?
Emotions come with a belief about something. That belief will affect us. We may feel sorrow, elation, anger, etc. through a belief.
How is that?
If while driving our cars on the road, someone shows us the “magic middle finger,” how do we “feel”?
The button has been pushed. It is the “I” jumping out. Anger flowing through our veins. We need to get even!
That is an emotion.
Where is the belief?
Someone showing us the “magic middle finger” means absolutely nothing unless we believe that this important finger has some meaning.
Feelings are completely void of beliefs and thus, thinking.
Any belief system becomes a trap by restricting our experience of oneness, by making divisions and separations where there is none.
Beliefs are used as “playpens” for the little child not to hurt himself.
“This is bad.” Believe it. You will not hurt yourself for sometime.
That labeling will become a nightmare later on, for that which we reject will appear with greater intensity.
The way life works cannot be put into words. All we can have are approximations based on the experience of who is attempting to explain something.
How could we explain that life is a “movie” If we have never experienced one?
Life is not a movie, but it could resemble one for some.
Then the belief that “life is a movie” will be a dogmatic repetition for followers. Followers could be a religious group, the collective consciousness, the society as a whole.
As we recognize more and more beliefs in our minds, we could become aware of them, not reject them, but become aware of the belief and allow for life to show us something different.
That openness comes when we allow our feelings to take over. When we feel life, we flow with it. An emotion, will be attached to a belief.
Life is change.
Nothing new in that phrase.
Nevertheless, our attitude and the way a typical human being lives life, is as if life was something static. Something which shouldn’t change… and the illusion is placed in our “efforts” to maintain life the way we “like it” or we believe to be “good.”
Today here. Tomorrow there…
The above phrase will infuse fear in most. Once we “settle down” then life is about the “fight” to remain as unchanged as possible: “Me and everything around Me.” 🙂
This lack of fluency with the way life is, will bring suffering.
Our beliefs are probably the hardest thing to let go. Because of our beliefs, we create suffering for others and for ourselves.
Do we see how suffering is pointing to our inability to free-flow with ‘what is’ without further thoughts?
That may be the meaning behind the most misunderstood word in Life:
When attachment is glorified in our society as “good,” detachment is not the “opposite” of attachment, but rather a label to express “free flow”… Just like a yoga class!
In Life, the opposite of being attached could be negligence, but never detachment.
Attachment is one extreme, negligence the other extreme and in between, there could be detachment.
Detachment is something that could never be understood by looking up the word in the dictionary.
We will be misled if we do that. We understand detachment by going deeply into: “Life is change.”
Jan liked his Jacuzzi at home very much. In 2 months, he was going to move out of the country into a third world country where a home Jacuzzi was not part of the “geography” there.
Jan thought: “I will not go into my Jacuzzi anymore to get used to not having one. In that way, I will be alright when I move out.”
That sounds like a good idea… right? 🙂
Jan is only showing how much attachment he has for that Jacuzzi.
Paul heard about Jan’s idea and he advised Jan: “ You should do the opposite. You should use your Jacuzzi more often while you can, because later you will not have it.”
Paul’s idea seems logical, nevertheless; it also shows attachment.
How is it possible for 2 opposite views to have the same result?
Because both views are not “free-flowing.” Those 2 opposite ideas are just mental solutions born out of attachment to something. There is a “knowing” that this something will go away soon.
Attachment comes at the mental level when there is a need, when we are “hook” into something or someone. To step away or to become closer while we can, shows the same thing.
This is the paradoxical aspect of attachment.
We cannot be detached by “thinking” about it, by finding an intellectual solution. It requires our ability to enjoy life as it manifests without rejecting it or “making the effort” to accept it.
Someone who flows in life, someone who is detached will live the moment. If he feels like going into the Jacuzzi, he will do so without letting his mind go into the future or the past.
To deny yourself something is as dangerous as to indulge into something… whatever that is.
and here the paradox of enjoyment:
When you are detached, you could enjoy.
Only when you are not there, you are…enjoying…:-)
It is in that enjoyment when the seed of love arises.
When there is knowledge of any kind in our intellect (scientific, religious, beliefs, etc.) we will believe that knowledge to be true and we will try to act accordingly. This activity based on intellectual knowledge is what is commonly known as doing “good.” Every religion has its own body of knowledge. We have commandments, laws, spiritual guidelines, codes of conduct, traditions, instructions, etc.
Nevertheless, many times we fail to realize that any of those “good” laws or their combination cannot fit the immensity of life and living life, those things cannot fit the many possibilities of living life. Thus, many individuals will choose to live a life of restriction based upon the understanding of certain laws. Their lives could be described in a piece of paper as the commandments they follow.
Those “laws” are not life. Those “laws” or guidelines are “fingers pointing to the Moon.” The Moon cannot be described in lengthy books, thus, it is an illusion that 10 instructions or 1000 could fit every aspect of life.
To experience the Moon is the goal, not to be stuck in the fingers. Experiencing the Moon is not just one experience. There are many, based on timing, circumstances, sensibility, state of mind, etc.
When I appreciate a bird singing in the morning, my sensibility is opened. This wonder is not man created. This wonder of life comes from a pure source of beauty which is Nature. No one can dispute the existence of Nature. It is there, every day, every night. It is just that TV has a greater pull, the cubicle at work and plenty of coffee has more to offer to our sleepy minds than the kiss of the handsome prince from Nature, to awaken us; the sleeping beauties, from the nightmare of living life in the “rat race.”
Nature is not metaphysical. We cannot make a religion out of Nature as we could out of God, however; the sounds of Nature, the vibrations , the colors; the experience is completely alive and when there is sensitivity for beauty, we could perceive it; and that brings its own change to our sleepy minds. That receptivity to beauty is all we need to “do.”
Then the commandment comes: “ I must not be attached to Nature.” That is when the “fingers pointing to the Moon,” become our worse nightmare. Intellectually I can understand attachment and intellectually I will force myself “not to be with Nature on a regular basis so I don’t’ get attached to it.” 🙂 for this is my perceived “truth.”
That is the time when our “spiritual life” turns into one restriction after another.
We have not understood our mind. That is the problem.
The mind will like something. It will not like something else. It will be indifferent toward certain things. That is all folks! 🙂
If the mind “likes something,” then it will get attached to it. If the mind, does not like something; then it will reject that. If the mind is indifferent, then nothing will happen. As long as there is “mind” in us, we will fluctuate between those 3 states. As long as the mind “likes” Nature; that is the thought of “liking,” has entered; then the commandment to “regulate,” things will use the other aspect of the mind; that is to reject something. “I must not be in Nature for too long..” Note that this is the war of the mind.
Indifference is not the key either, for indifference does not allow appreciation; when appreciation is lacking, life loses its zest, its sacredness. It becomes the “same ol’ thing.”
Here is where the teaching of “no mind,” or to go beyond the mind or to have an empty mind, becomes important. Even though, we have knowledge that life is a movie; our minds are continuously playing its own movie. We believe that movie of the mind to be true and become entangled in the issues which are merely a reflection of our own liking something and being attached to it or fully rejecting something else which could turn around at any time.
Finally, in that state of duality of the mind, there cannot possibly be love.
To experience the Moon with the mind, is a recipe for trouble. As a matter of fact, there is no experience as long as the mind is in between.
What do we do?
Observe. That is become aware, conscious that this is happening. That is the study.
Is the mind “bad” then? No. Neither “good” nor “bad.” It just is. Imagination comes from it, dreams come from it; that is why life is really a dream for most of us; thus the need to wake up. 🙂