Well it’s a long time since I’ve posted on here, but I’m moving back to Brighton this weekend and looking forward to getting back on my mat by the sea. Thought I might share a blog post I made a while back:
How good are your non-attachment skills? And what exactly does that mean anyway, non-attachment?
On the most basic level, we are all attached to stuff, whether it’s a favourite item of clothing, a piece of jewellery, a vehicle (self-powered or otherwise), electronic equipment, handbag, or whatever. We’ve all experienced that feeling of anger mixed with sadness (possibly even anguish), when something ‘bad’ happens to one of our favourite pieces of stuff. The more valuable the item, whether in financial or emotional terms, the greater the depth of feeling engendered by its loss, but what real difference to our life does this loss actually make? In many cases, absolutely none, yet the negative emotions can stay with us for periods ranging from hours to days, months or even years.
That’s not to say that these feelings aren’t completely natural or indeed to be expected, but holding onto them is nothing more than sadomasochism, no matter how little control we may feel we have over the state of affairs. Being child-like doesn’t mean behaving immaturely, although that can certainly be quite therapeutic in itself. Rather it means experiencing a negative emotion, then letting it go. We’ve all seen how a screaming child instantly forgets what is troubling them when given a treat of some kind. We were all able to let go of negative emotions like this when we were children, so what has changed as we age?
In a word; EGO.
Our ego, like Satan (if you believe in that kind of thing), has pulled off the trick of making us believe that it does not exist. We cannot distinguish between our true selves and our ego, and so this skewed picture we are being fed becomes who we are, and not only that but we will defend this false picture with every molecule of our being. We are not attached to these things I have mentioned, it is our ego that is attached, and wants to be attached, for these things nourish it and make it feel good. And that is what the ego is all about, being massaged and feeling good. It is the ultimate sensual-pleasure seeker.
A few years ago, when I was living in London, I had an experience that brought home to me just how powerful non-attachment can be.
I had gone into a shop to pick up a couple of things, and when I got to the till I pulled out the change in my pocket, along with my house keys. As I selected the correct change the shop assistant commented on how nice the key-ring was, an aluminium dolphin with a blue glass centre, and then asked if she could have it.
I was completely stunned at her cheek!
‘No, of course you can’t have it!’ I said as I proffered my cash. Who on earth was this woman to just go asking for another persons belongings, especially a customer she was serving!? The keyring had only cost a few quid, but held a lot of sentimental value, as I had purchased it on a trip I took to France with kids from the first school I worked in after qualifying. Not only was it beautiful, but it brought back the happy memories of that time.
As I walked home my incredulity at her brazen request played over and over in my mind, but another through crept in. Why was I so determined to keep hold of this item (because it was mine, I remember my ego shouting)? The memories would still be with me whatever happened to the dolphin. What, exactly, would change in my life if I no longer possessed it?
Absolutely nothing, as far as I could intellectually determine, but I still felt a deep discomfort I could not explain.
I made my way home, but I could not shake these questions and feeling of confusion that her request had raised, the experience popping back into my mind at random intervals over the next several days.
I don’t remember how I came to the decision to give up the dolphin, but I remember very clearly walking back into the shop a couple of weeks later, going up to the till and placing it on the counter, saying something like ‘I don’t know if you remember me, but you can have this if you’d like. Please take good care of it.’
She said thanks, although seemed nowhere near as grateful as part of my brain thought she ought, but these feelings were almost completely submerged in the quite shocking feeling of absolute joy I seemed to be experiencing. I remember having to work very hard to stop myself from bursting into tears as I walked down the street, grinning like an idiot and marvelling at the depth of feeling giving up this meaningless piece of ‘stuff’ had produced.
I would love to say that my non-attachment skills have gone from strength to strength from this point on, but alas it seems that the lesson needs re-learning over and over. I still find my state of mind being tugged about by attachment to things as well as how I would like situations to turn out. Attachment to events, and how I perceive they should be, turns out to be far more difficult to give up than my attachment to stuff, but if relinquishing a piece of metal shaped as a dolphin can make me so happy, I can barely imagine how blissful my existence will be when I am able to be happy with things as they are and not how my ego tells me they should be.
Thanks for your post. It made for interesting reading.
You’ve certainly chosen a fine time to return to Brighton with all the sunshine we’re having!