Attachment is a big part of our lives. It can be a driving force of our hopes and fears, our ideas about the past, present and future, our ideas about our place in the world and those in our lives. Much has been said about attachment, particularly by eastern philosophers and mystics. What can we learn from this and how can we apply these lessons to our modern lives?
If you look through philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism, you’ll find that there does seem to be an emphasis on not becoming attached to particular things. Why is this?
Attachment is to be avoided because all things are temporary. The only permanence is the very process of existence itself, not its particular manifestations. So, we should cultivate relationships with fleeting entities, but should not require their existence/presence for our own happiness. This results in less suffering; because if we require something, in order to be happy, we will ultimately find our self suffering, when that thing either ceases to exist, or ceases to be a part of our life.
This often happens with interpersonal relationships; but it can also happen in many other areas. Anything that you can fathom, that you require, in order to feel happy, is an attachment.
What does this idea, that attachments are to be avoided, mean for us? That is the ultimate question.
Does it mean that we should live alone in a cave somewhere, without anyone in our lives, because we don’t want to be attached? Some people would say that this is the path they should take. I have a different idea, however, which is far less extreme.
I believe that the key to non-attachment, has to do with how we perceive and relate to things internally. When we think of things that we are connected to, we have to be capable of being happy either with or without those things. We have to work towards finding happiness that exists, regardless of these things, a deeper happiness.
So if we find ourselves genuinely attached to something or someone, we need to take note of this. We need to ask our selves why this is. What does this thing or this person provide me, that I could not have otherwise? I think, that if you ponder this in depth, you will find that you are already complete, even without the things you are attached to. The belief in the necessity of these attachments is an illusion.
To realize that you are already complete, allows you to maintain your connections; but be able to let go of them, when the time comes, without feeling incomplete and suffering as a result.
This feeling of incompleteness without something, is an illusion and is a weakness. It is a debt that will one day be paid. Realizing that we are already complete, allows us to live without the burden of this debt. It allows us to let go and in letting go, we lose all of the hope and fear associated with holding on.
We can have wonderful, meaningful, profound connections; but we must remember that these connections are temporary. Even if some of these are connections for life, everything meets its demise. Even many connections intended for life, meet their demise, either by biology or by change.
Enjoy those connections while they last; but be wary of becoming dependent on them. Your happiness will be much greater if you can work on this on a continuous basis.