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Letting go versus being attached

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran
edited March 16 in Buddhism Basics

Recently I was doing an exercise of the imagination, on what it would feel like to be homeless, like a monk or a street person. I was thinking about what I would miss - my clothes, my couch, my bed, tv, my dvds and books - and what I would have trouble letting go of. The idea was to see how I would cope, how I would feel, and learn how attached I was.

And I ended up thinking that a lot of these were comforts, that I liked being comfortable, and that I was actually quite attached to a lot of stuff. But as I ruminated on this I found myself in the process of letting go of things. It was like a virtual letting go at a time that it wasn’t needed yet, it was like starting to feel without all kinds of things.

This set me to thinking, is it actually possible to enjoy the things in this world without becoming attached to them. Surely part of our journey here on this earth is the basic enjoyment of life and the things in it, from a beautiful sunrise to honey-and-milk served in a lovely cup? Of course all things are temporary, impermanent, and we need to be able to let go of everything including our bodies eventually.

But is it even possible to enjoy things without becoming attached? Perhaps it is better to be able to easily let go than it is to become attached in the first place?

Snakeskin

Comments

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I think it is possible. I try to practice it, but it is kind of hard to know where the line of enjoyment versus attachment is. If I observe that I feel sad, disappointed etc when the moment passes, that seems the best way for me to realize I was attached to it. But realizing it has seemed to make it happen less often. I can take in a fantastic sunset without being sad that it is over. Mostly because I have slowly learned to stop comparing things. The sunset is beautiful, but that comparison suggests that the sky when not in sunset, is not beautiful. Which is not the case. So since I can now better appreciate the sky in twilight and in darkness I know there is always something to appreciate in each moment rather than pining for a moment that has passed. It helps me to avoid buying stuff I do not need as well. It is the comparison that gets problematic, I think. In my experience. So for me the letting go happens more naturally as the moment passes because I know something just as worthy is with me right now and i will miss it if I am focused on what I have lost.

    I struggle much more in applying it to people, mostly my children.

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @karasti said:
    I think it is possible. I try to practice it, but it is kind of hard to know where the line of enjoyment versus attachment is.

    That’s true, I struggle with this too. When I get a new DVD that I have been looking forward to, there is some pleasure in receiving the thing. It’s about newness, giving yourself a present, anticipated pleasure of watching a good film... and some attachment too. But if I try to “un-attach”, the pleasure automatically vanishes as well. It’s a difficult process to mindfully observe.

    The sunset is beautiful, but that comparison suggests that the sky when not in sunset, is not beautiful. Which is not the case. So since I can now better appreciate the sky in twilight and in darkness I know there is always something to appreciate in each moment rather than pining for a moment that has passed.

    But what about if this was the last sunset? Something like a sunset or food is a bad example, because experience teaches us there will always be a next, but what if it’s something unique, like letting go of the body at death?

    I struggle much more in applying it to people, mostly my children.

    I think children are especially difficult for a parent... it’s the nurturing bond that a parent has with their child, that’s formed in the moments after birth or the first close contact.

  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    But is it even possible to enjoy things without becoming attached? Perhaps it is better to be able to easily let go than it is to become attached in the first place?

    I believe it is possible to experience enjoyment with equanimity. That would make letting go easy, because it’s rooted in non-attachment, i.e., wasn’t grasped in the first place, just experienced. I think it’s an attainable level of spiritual maturity.

    For me it grows from dichotomies of external and internal, then internal connected with the world and internal not connected with the world. In each stage there’s a slow process of seeing the members of these classes as they are until they lose their charm.

    Beyond the last, I believe, is the highest level of spiritual maturity. From then on enjoyment and pain is experienced with pure equanimity.

    KeromeShoshin
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited March 16

    @Kerome I am not sure. I do think about that sometimes, what if it is the last. But most of the time we do not know that it is, we only know something was the last when we look back at it. I imagine as we approach death it is different, in the case of knowing we are dying at least. But I have always gotten the sense that our understanding of things also shifts when we are in that place. I guess for me, even things that seem like that last, if I suspect that might be the case, are never really the last. It is just that our understanding is unable to take us beyond at that point.

    Like with my kids, yes there is sadness when things change. When my oldest left home for the first time, it was very hard to adjust. I missed having him be an every day part of the family. I still do. But there is a balance to be found in watching him explore life in new ways, and on his own. So while there was a definite last line that was crossed when he moved out and I knew things would never be the same, there was still a different sense of moving on, and I think that it can be the same for death as well. When I think about dying there is a definite conflict between being sad at the thought of leaving and not seeing how things play out, but also a sense of grand adventure and being excited to see what comes next. Even though I know, of course, that is coming from mind. I do have an exaggerated sense of a complete end because I am not sure it really exists, I guess. Changing, transforming, yes.

    Snakeskin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited March 16

    @Kerome said;
    This set me to thinking, is it actually possible to enjoy the things in this world without becoming attached to them

    When reading your post, I thought "Ah...the beauty of renunciation" (Nekkhamma)

    Renunciation is about more than just doing without things. It’s the beautiful realization that you already have everything you need.

    "Venerable Thubten Chodron teaches on the first of the three aspects of right thought, the renunciation of sense objects."

    lobsterSnakeskin
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I just made a thread about an app that reminds you of death that sounds like it would help on this matter.

    http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/25547/wecroak/p1?new=1

    Snakeskin
  • Enjoyment - "That's nice."
    Attachment - "That's nice. I'd like another one, and another and another."

    personKeromelobsterSnakeskin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited March 17

    Well simplified @pegembara

    We can and should enjoy enjoyable things as they arise. Most of us are not able to be Sangha Simplified minimalists BUT we can stop dwelling in pain or grabbing for [insert preferred joy] - good talk from Venerable Thubten Chodron ... :)

    In Sufism those oblivious to materiality are permitted it, usually after ascetic training. In other words attachment is excessive emotional clinging. In itself it may be quite natural and healthy to be attached unless it interferes with our well being ...

    How much is enough? With equinimity and contentment, we become easily satisfied with fortunes tos and fros ...

    Snakeskin
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    I think at least part of letting go is setting the thing free. When we know we can live without it, we can actually enjoy it more than if we cling. We can watch it change and grow without feeling threatened and we can better change and grow without remorse.

    KeromelobsterSnakeskinkarasti
  • Lee82Lee82 Veteran
    edited March 17

    I’m currently (finally) reading Viktor Frankl's Man’s Search For Meaning. This book really puts things in perspective and, I think, will help in your desire to let go of things and find joy without attachment. When forced in to a situation where everyone and everything you have ever known has gone, you're stood naked and the only try thing you have in the world is your naked body, you have no choice but to carry on or die. On reading about this, everything else pales in to insignificance.

    Snakeskinkarasti
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @David said:
    I think at least part of letting go is setting the thing free. When we know we can live without it, we can actually enjoy it more than if we cling.

    Thanks @David, this really resonated with me. It is true that all these things we live with also live their own lives, even something like a DVD or a sweater. It is all impermanent, changing, alive in a way, and of course we need to acknowledge it is impossible to really own anything. That is a window into seeing that really the whole universe is changing and altering in a living manner.

    SnakeskinkarastiDavid
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    Does the highest, most wise zen master enjoy a cup of tea? Sure, why not! Would he be upset if someone took it away from him? Certainly not!

    Snakeskin
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Veteran

    @seeker242, maybe not so certainly. The highest, most wise zen master might be pained knowing the consequences of taking what isn't given just as equanimously as enjoying a cup of tea. If that behavior were correctable, he might, out of compassion, act to correct it, in the same way he'd sip tea. I'm not a zen person. I could be wrong.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    There is a story Ajahn Brahm tells about Ajahn Chah.

    Ajahn Chah would take a glass and say "You see this glass? There is a microscopic crack in the glass, the glass is already broken. I enjoy it. I drink out of it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and a wind comes or my elbow brushes it and it falls and breaks I say, 'Of course'. When I understand this glass is already broken every moment with it is precious."

    SnakeskinkarastiShoshinlobster
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