Read the first part of this article: Attachment I
In ways subtle or obvious, people operate schedules dictated by their attachment. This means attachment to a feeling of security, familiarity, a paycheck, a big house, a daily hot shower, a temperate environment, etc. It is certainly possible to enjoy these things without attachment, but realistically, very few are on that level. Seeing through attachment will allow you to maintain peace regardless of the situation or environmental condition. But every person has attachments. There is always room to go deeper within yourself. That’s where pushing your limits and putting yourself in new situations, unfamiliar and possibly uncomfortable situations has its benefit.
Put yourself in situations that you’re not prepared for, or where there are elements of the unknown. This is another area in which people experience a lot of attachment – they don’t put themselves in situations in which they feel insecure. Many people are stuck inside their own idealistic and socio-economic cliques and bubbles.
If you are this type of person who has been pushing her limits, who is actively engaged in the process of exploring attachments, then you will find it beneficial to meditate more, spend less time talking, less time watching tv, watching movies, listening to music, surfing the web. . .
Purposefully put yourself into new situations, talk to people you’ve never talked to before. And observe the thoughts and feelings you have. Just observe, without judgment, just see what’s there.
A ten-day Vipassana* meditation course is a good example: you’re going into an environment that you’ve never been in before, an environment based on silence, which is rare in most human-inhabited places, and you are going to have a lot of time to be with your thoughts and feelings, becoming conscious of the various levels occurring inside your body.
This is what non-attachment looks like in the New Paradigm: you are living passionately. You are living from inspiration and with purpose. You are doing that deliberately. That is the goal. Life without desire is pointless. To me, desire is the fire of life, it is the fire of creativity. Without desire there is no creativity. Without creativity, there is no life.
There are a ton of people out there, not just in the East, but in this country also, who strive to get rid of desire. To my mind, the way they are doing it is actually based in the very attachment from which they want to be free. It may be coming from the idea that desire causes suffering. Desire doesn’t cause suffering. Attachment causes suffering, whether it is attachment to desires or anything else. In the New Paradigm, when you are inspired, you glimpse the infinite potential. You know that it is possible and available. And if you choose to, you cultivate it. If not, you let it go and move on. Either way, you do it without attachment.
For example: I have two children. On a regular basis, I have a desire, a very real desire, to create for them a life where they’re free. To create an environment where they are respected and supported, where they are able to be themselves. But at the same time I don’t have attachment for that to look or unfold in any particular way.
Any parent has the desire (which, in a way is coming from love) to provide their child with the best life possible. If you ask any parent, they’re going to say they want the best for their children. They want to provide all the opportunities and give them “the life they never had.” Some of that is coming from love, but much is coming from judgment. You may want your child to have the best education, and therefore you encourage her to excel and get the best grades. You start punishing her for not doing well enough, or because her grades aren’t perfect. You’re stuck in thinking how things are supposed to unfold.
So I desire the best life for my children. But I don’t have ideas about how that’s supposed to look. I just simply feel that desire, that vision, that feeling, and in this moment, I attend to that as best as I possibly can. It’s always changing. Each moment is a new moment. If you don’t realize that, you aren’t in the moment, and you are living in attachment and judgment. It isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s extremely limiting. If you want to experience a life of overflowing potential, you have to be willing to let go of these expectations.
There was a time I had a very strong attachment to an image of myself. My self-image was heavily influenced by how I thought other people saw me, whether they approved, their opinions, etc. The trap here is obvious. Even if you experience the constant reinforcement of positive approval, you are still in fear of losing it. You stop being natural, doing what you want, and instead do what you think will garner praise. Many people have this attachment. So I had an attachment to being liked, to being seen as beautiful. I had attachments to the feeling that I owed my family a certain quota of my time, or that I had to ‘be’ within the boundary of the person they knew me to be.
And so what I did was just meditate. I did this for four to five years straight. Every single day, all day long. I would just observe my thoughts, observe my feelings. I didn’t judge, I just saw what was present. And the ideas became clear, the ideas I was holding onto about the world, about relationships, about beauty, about health – all of the attachments.
As I become aware of these various attachments, I faced them. No running, no hiding, no distraction. That is the way I became free. That is the birth of the New Paradigm. I came into meditation and observation pretty naturally. No one had to teach me, but I was led to it by my natural introspection. From this I know that the same ability is present in all of us.
Observe, recognize, experience, and let it go naturally!
*Ten-day silent meditation retreat given in center around the world. (www.dhamma.org)