A quite sad situation prompts me to write this post: I’ve lost my notebook, that I’ve kept writing in since Bangkok. All the Thai words, little messages by people, thoughts during the Yoga retreat, my goals and manifestations, music that I want to remember, recipes and a whole lot more. I guess it really was one of my most prized possessions, and I loose it at some friends hostel in Siem Reap. It hurts every time I think about it. This however is also a prime opportunity to give me insight into the feelings and thoughts associated attachment and craving.
To gain true, unbounded spiritual freedom, it is said, that one has to truly understand and thus dissolving all suffering. In this instance, and in all others, suffering arises not because of external circumstances, but rather because of our expectations, attachments and the subsequent act of clinging on to them. In this specific case, I am clinging on to past thoughts, ideas, goals and experiences. Essentially it felt like I owned these thoughts, because they were contained in a form of portable symbolism in my pocket. I could always take them out and interpret the symbols and remind myself of thoughts and feelings from the past much easier than I can do by digging through my consciousness. Although I think it is here where I am making the mistake. I do not own these memories. These thoughts were the effect of previous conditioning by experiences and feelings. They were caused by maybe equally important, but not recorded thoughts I have no attachment to. They were just effects of a combination of previous causes, and were part of the causes that lead to new effects. Like everything: It comes, it goes, things rise and fall.
Eventually this book would have probably landed in a box and be forgotten somewhere, the pages and ink would fade with time, and at some point all those writings would only be dust in the wind. To make myself feel better I also started thinking that maybe the person who found it will gain something valuable from what I wrote, however it might have just as well landed in the bin and would go through the described disintegration process much faster. This is also a valuable lesson within: Attachment is just as much subject to rising and falling as is everything else. It is only how long we cling to the attachment that defines its lifetime. If we let the sense of clinging go, the attachment and subsequent suffering will begin to fade.
It goes further than that though. If we learn to understand non-attachment truly, we will be able to eliminate so many causes for suffering including: fear, anger, sorrow, hatred, judgment of others and ourselves, and so on. It has to be said here that non-attachment is just as different to detachment then to attachment. Detachment is more a state of aversion towards something like lets say fear of heights. Rather than wanting to understand objectively why one fears heights, the experiences that would elicit those feelings are avoided as best as one can. This is a trap we all fall into at some point: We might not be able to always to avoid that which we fear. Should the situation then arise, we immediately move from active detachment to the attachment and “owning” of the exact thing we detached from, in this case the fear of heights.
Now just some notes to make me, and possibly you, realise some of the things we are attached to without ever thinking about it, and we suffer should they begin to fade:
– Expectations that someone will be on time for a meeting
– Expectations that we will be thanked for our deed
– That our Mother will be alive and well when we return home
– A present we received from a deceased friend or family member
– Expectations that a monetary debt will be repaid
– Expectations that we keep improving at the same rate as we did before (eg. when we learn to play an instrument)
– Expectations that pictures from a holiday will show up when you insert the SD card
– Expectations that the kitchen will be clean when we come home
– Expectations that someone will like us
– A belief that ones physical appearance is attractive to others
– That we will be alive and well in the morning
Then there are also negative things we attach to, and we suffer should they arise and sometimes we suffer before they arise:
– The fear of losing of a prised possession
– The fear of losing a family member
– The expectation that someone will harm us
– Expectations that we will never find love
– The belief that someone holds a certain judgement towards us, without realising that we are judging ourselves in that moment
– The belief that we could never love ourselves because we believe we don’t deserve it
– The fear of becoming sick
Once we have realised the importance of growing non-attachment in ourselves, there is a multitude of positive effects that occur. Firstly we begin to understand that no external person or circumstance has the fault for our suffering. They might have triggered it, however it is our attachment to notions, norms, and expectations of adherence that allows suffering. Secondly we can begin to free ourselves, step by step of the things that keep us in a state of suffering. Things that annoy us, like someone being late, can be seen as valuable opportunities for life, for example drawing a little picture or just allowing oneself 5 minutes relaxation. Thirdly, we will be increasingly able to stay focussed in the present moment, without dwelling on the past or possible futures. Fourthly, it will allow us to deal with each moment, experience and circumstance in a calm and clear mindset, no matter how unpleasant the feelings that arise. Lastly, if you don’t have any expectations of or goals in meditation and yoga practice, it will become easier than you could ever imagine.
If you feel like it, contemplate all this and see how it fits to your life. If you feel like you would like to grow non-attachment for certain things, read more about it, think about it, and possibly write about it. The latter helped me right now to begin finding peace with the fact that my notebook is gone, and once I will have left this town (Siem Reap, Cambodia) I hope my attachment to it will have dissolved completely.
Much love and gratitude to all beings and experiences. Namaste.