The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
I thought I'd explore it briefly* here, from my own sense of it, as conceptually I think it's a really important point, and experientially it can completely change our perception of our lives.
The point was no. 14:
'Give up attachment. This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too (it still is), but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at it with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and selfless; where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.' (www.purposefairy.com)
From my perspective on attachment, influenced both by my long practice of Zen and my training in Jungian-based psychotherapy, what the author means is that as long as we are attached to things being a certain way, outcomes being as we desire them, people staying exactly as we need them to be for our comfort, situations unfolding according to our desires, we cannot be at peace or happy, as we are continuously trying to control stuff, events and people according to our 'small self', the ego, and hand-in-hand with that goes our clinging on in fear that things will go in unwanted directions and we won't be able to cope.
This is a way of being constricted and driven by fear. That's not to say we can't have desires and needs, obviously, but as long as we hang on to them as ultimate truths and must-haves rather than letting things, situations and people be as they are we cannot be free.
Life IS change; we can do nothing about that. Everything is also transitory. If we accept this and get off our own backs, and the backs of those whom we love, we can all have happier lives. We might as well roll with it. (I'm not advocating taking a quietist disengaged approach to eg social and political change, by the way; just suggesting we don't invest ourselves quite as much in having to have it all turn out in the way we think it should. We do our best and we let it go. That's the theory!)
Zen – well, Buddhism in general – suggests that two things that keep us living 'small' and unhappy are our attachments, and our aversions: the things/people/situations we feel we can't live without, and the things/people/situations we can't stand. Both of these buy into a dualistic notion of self and other as being entirely separate, and ignore the fact that everything is interconnected. On this wheel, life is a perpetual and frightening rollercoaster.
Another aspect is that we so identify ourselves with the ego, its desires and fears, that we can't step back long enough either as to see the bigger picture or to contact what we might call our 'higher Self' or 'higher nature', which is untroubled by transience and change in outer events.
Serenity comes from doing our best and then letting go. Acceptance, in other words.
I think also it's important to be clear about the difference between a kind of uncaring detachment, and a deep heartful awareness of non-attachment. There's been some confusion in translating some aspects of Eastern teachings for the Western culture and psyche, I think; and many people believe that the detachment of Buddhism is cold and disengaged.
My understanding is that non-attachment is a different quality altogether: we are still engaged with, in love with, even, the cosmos and this world, its sentient beings and diversity of forms; we are just not thrown off balance all the time by identifying our ego as reality, and striving to control and direct everything and other people according to our emotional reactions. We realise the deep truth in knowing that the universe and other people are not here to meet our needs. And knowing that everything changes, we don't try and hang on to what we simply can't, that's all; or rather, we practise not holding on to everything!
And – of course it's much easier to know it intellectually than to actually practise it in our daily lives! Do I manage it? Rarely. (You ought to see the turbulence I fall into when faced with a biggish decision!)
Do I feel better – and am I kinder – in those situations where I have briefly managed to let go of how I think things should be and turn out? Without question.
* I suppose we all know by now that my 'briefly' isn't, in fact...
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