Thursday, March 31, 2011

I, Me, Mine, and the Ego-Part 2

The second article in a four part series of exploring and applying the concept of dis-attachment.

Stuff we own, and how we view them:

Think of all the things you own: house, cars, furniture, clothes, everything that is a material possession.

Do we posses the object or does the object possess us?

Sounds like an odd question; how could an inanimate object be in ownership of a living, breathing human being?

Yea, it's a pretty ridiculous thought, but when we become attached, or associate our perception of self, to an object we become enslaved to it's existence.

Attachment, Huh?

My last statement was both extreme and dramatic, but in my research of the actual meaning of attachment I discovered that "attachment" was not some wishy washy word.  The definition of attachment is actually quite extreme and dramatic.

Merriam-Webster defines attachment(in the context I am using it) as:

A state of being personally attached.

That isn't what surprised me, in fact that's exactly how I would have defined the word.  Being personally attached doesn't sound all that extreme, but then I looked at the list of synonyms.

The synonyms used by Merriam-Webster are:
Affection, love, devotedness, devotion, fondness, and passion

Wow!  Big strong words.  The question that arises for me when looking at that list is: Do I want to be devoted to, in love with, or passionate about man made stuff?

Not really, but why?

Why is attachment given such a bad rap?

In defense of "attachment," love, devotion, passion, are all great and awesome qualities of life.  It's more a question (for me at least) of where these qualities manifest themselves in my daily life.

Like I said in the past article I'm not looking to renounce myself of human needs, or even certain desires, however, I think there is wisdom in the practice or consideration of dis-attachment.

What's the purpose of this practice?

All attachment causes suffering, duuuuuh!

Huh? Like many, the first time I heard of these concepts I thought it was just another unrealistic "ideal" of obtaining perfection, and I really didn't understand what was being told to me.

The example here was my first experience in the pain of losing something I loved, and I think most of you will have a similar story.

As a young child I had a "blankee."  My special blanket that I couldn't live with out, and it went with me EVERYWHERE.  I loathed laundry day, cried when I mindlessly left it behind, and lost a lot of sleep when I eventually had to let go of what had became a tattered rag.

Oh, how silly I was to have grieved over a few feet of soft fabric.

Giving up a security blanket, stuffed animal, or toy is just something kids have to do in order to move onto the next stage of life.

The thing is as I grew older I developed new "blankees," once that were worth more, took more time or money to get.  Oddly, I didn't learn from my first lesson that stuff is as fleeting as the days.  Even more odd, my attachments became more intense. It was no longer just a grieving of loss, but a fear of loss that took up/takes up more energy than I am willing to even admit.

I have discovered a lot of time and energy is spent on anxiety, fear, and hard work maintaining something that has no real consequence.

To be blunt this stuff can't go with us when we die, and in the grand scheme of things doesn't really do anything for us.

What I'm trying to say here:

Is there are things we need(shelter, food, clothing, etc.), and things we really don't.  Once again I want to remind you I am not telling you to get rid of all your heirlooms, entertainment, collections, or anything you find enjoyable.  I am suggesting that you evaluate your priorities ask yourself questions to see if these things are causing you more joy or more suffering, and then go from there.

Questions/Thoughts to Consider:

Take some time to contemplate how the ideas discussed here apply to you in your life.  Here are some questions I have been asking myself, and have sparked a new awareness of who I am and who I want to be.  I am sharing these questions in hopes that it will help you consider the topic in practical terms. 

Maybe you'll find yourself compelled to make changes, maybe you won't, maybe you'll learn something about yourself, maybe not.  The reason I am sharing my journey, and views of it, isn't in hopes that you'll have some grand AH HA moment, but rather to ask some questions and get you thinking!

  • What was your first experience in loss(things not people)?  How did that feel for you?
  • What are the things you can't live without? Think simple!  Examples: favorite pillow, chocolate, lucky t-shirt, etc.
  • Consider the pros and cons of these things? Example:  I like to have a vast library of books, but that means a lot more dusting.  I love the taste of diet soda, but the chemicals are not good for my health, so on and so forth.
  • What are some ways you define yourself with the things you own? I'm a home owner, I own ____ car.  I wear these clothes because I'm a business man, fashionista, stay at home mom, etc.
  • Why are you defined by these things? Social status, creative expression, financial status, power, etc.
  • Describe yourself with out these things. What's left?  Are you still you with out them?

I hope that this offered some tools and motivation in self study, and that you too question, observe, and discover parts of yourself in your life journey.

PLEASE share your thoughts and experiences!!!  The more we share and discuss our views, agree or disagree, the more we can learn about each other and ultimately ourselves.

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