One Buddhist teaching I’ve always struggled to embody is non-attachment. How can one be non-attached? I don’t consider myself to be all too attached to my material possessions. At the moment I’m doing my annual rifle and donate of my clothes. I’ve spent the last two years away from all these things and I definitely don’t need them. The real question is, are the clothes even mine anymore? I refer to them as my material possessions so I suppose I associate them as being part of me but, I’ve been off living this wonderful life for years without them. In that respect, I don’t know how forward thinking I am, but I definitely could give you all my stuff and not feel much about it. Non attachment – great – tick, next?
Oh wait, non-attachment goes beyond the material. Ah the physical. The physical bodies surrounding me. The others. The memories, yes you’ve got me, I’m attached. I cannot help but find myself sentimental about people. I spend one really beautiful day with someone and I feel sad when we part ways. Imagine how I am when it’s been a few weeks, months or god forbid years. I don’t think this is irrational attachment, I believe its beautiful sentimentality. I see the good in people and if I shared a meditation, a coffee or a home-cooked meal with you, I feel I want your life to go well. I can’t be non-attached. These proverbs where someone’s child dies and the father starts talking about how he dreamt he had many children and now they’re all gone too…which should he be sadder about? That’s just nonsensical to me. It’s not teaching me anything.
I suppose it’s all about discrimination between permanent and impermanent. Sure I can recognise what’s permanent in life is not my TV, car, or brief café encounter. Everything is impermanent except for some notion of soul or supreme, which is so complex I don’t tend to even try and verbalise it. Don’t be attached to the impermanent. It makes sense doesn’t it? Getting attached to what will inevitably change is ludicrous, but I want to laugh, live and take joy in the impermanent. Where’s the joy in living with non-attachment? I’ll be so busy trying to avoid this human innate tendency for sentimentally that I wouldn’t even get to enjoy not being attached to people.
Prime example, the other month while on my yoga teacher training there were 8 of us living in each others pockets, especially me and my roommate, India. India and I went to bed at 10pm together, woke up at 5.30am together, meditated, together. Did yoga so close together, during Prasarita Padottanasana our heads would be in-between each others legs. Ate meals together, took hours of classes together, chanted together, and during our break we chose to spend it swimming, walking, and talking…you guessed it, together! Non-stop togetherness on repeat for nearly four weeks.
It was a wonderful experience because not only was I on this yoga journey but I got to share it with India and with the other incredible women on the course. Our attachment and bond was all part of the beauty! Would I give up my attachment to that impermanence – no chance! When we all said goodbye at the airport it was like saying goodbye to a new part of me, how would I start doing things alone again? I got on a bus feeling melancholy and then went to a hostel and started my next adventure. My attachment hasn’t stopped me from continuing my life, but it’s made me feel blessed that I have these attachments to feel sentimental about.
What I’m trying to say or ask or think is that I feel good about my sentimental attachment to people and that’s alright. Right? While I was travelling on my own, a great friend (I made travelling) told me travelling by myself and constantly moving around wasn’t suited to me because I get so attached and sad above leaving people behind. But I always felt that I made more genuine connections and I valued the people I chose to be around. My attachments haven’t stopped me from leaving when I needed too but it’s given me some of the most meaningful encounters I’ve had because you know, sometimes I stayed long enough for wonderful things to happen.
Helen – WAP
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