Non-Attachment and the F-Bomb

Non-attachment is one of the fundamental principles for avoiding suffering, according to the Buddha. Other traditions put it differently, perhaps, but the virtue is there: ‘No really, stop worrying about it, and stop identifying with it.’ What is it? Anything. Everything. Most everyone is attached to 1) stuff, 2) ideas, 3) emotions, 4) actions. And Buddha’s point was that attachment, and the subsequent desire that it creates, is actually the root of all suffering in the world and the more non-attached you can get in general and in specific, the happier you’ll be.

But you know, a person can try to go about non-attachment in… shall we say an unhelpful manner. When, as humans, we try to force letting go rather than get ourselves to a place where we can naturally let go, what we end up getting is more suffering. Why? Because we can’t force this. That doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing, but if non-attachment is something that appeals to us, then the idea is to do it gently, intelligently, and in a healthy manner. There may still be pain as we look inside ourselves and to our great horror discover what was always there. But there will also be great comfort as we, bit by bit, gently uproot our pain and compost it.

There are so many ways to go about this, possibly as many ways as there are people. My own path has had many teachers so far, and many teachers even now, and everything I’ve encountered (whether intentionally therapeutic or not) I’ve used as fodder to learn this lesson. Some of the things that have helped me immensely and still do, randomly selected from the pile: Going through the process of KonMari’ing my possessions and doing it as an exercise in discernment; Becoming a student of A Course In Miracles; A many-years long relationship with a very skilled Spiritual Director; My husband, who is the sharpest tool of my enlightenment.

And you know, it strikes me that everything in this world can be interpreted in two ways (broadly – specifically, so many more than two). Our interpretation can be something that fosters attachment – typically negative emotions like anger, fear, guilt, and shame. Our interpretation can be something that fosters non-attachment – positive emotions like peace, contentment, joy, forgiveness, release. And really, anything, anything, that is said can be interpreted in these two ways. The simplest, kindly meant thing. A vulgar statement that may be often used to condemn. Anything we say, anything we do, everything in the world, everything, can be interpreted in these two ways, and indeed, nothing is actually neutral.

Which brings me to the embroidery of the day. This is something I worked up in about three hours from my stash, partly because I really like making these ribbon roses, and partly because I had an extra little 3″ hoop, and partly because I wanted a simple little phrase to remind me to not take this world quite so seriously. But that’s kind of a long phrase. And if the religious tradition in which I make my home has one single, solitary, positive aspect to its history, it is the championing of putting prayer in ‘the language of the people’. It was a huge thing at one point and people burned at the stake because of it, and it has since continued to be a thing, sometimes large, sometimes small. And so, surrounded by ten delicate ribbon roses from the palest yellow to the deepest coral, I kindly and gently remind myself not to take all these things quite so seriously.

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