“A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.”Dogen Zenji, Founder of the Soto Zen school in Japan
Thinking about attachment and nonattachment. We get attached to the things we want, and we feel aversion to the things we don’t want. We most definitely want to practice nonattachment to all the things we don’t want, things that hurt us in one way or another. Yet in the practice of everyday life, it seems that’s often not very true. We attach ourselves to the negative things, not out of a real desire to have those be a part of our lives, but because we’re creatures of habit. It’s what we know. The comfortable sufferings we deal with, that we (kind of) know how to deal with, that if we were to let go of them as we should, we might not really know who we are. Or who we ever were in the first place.
And we feel nonattachment to the degree of aversion for the good things in life, sometimes, probably because we know it’s not going to last anyway. It’s harder to let some things in when you see how impermanent it will be. And I find it so interesting that it’s so much easier to note the impermanence of the “good” things in life than it is to see the impermanence of the “bad” things in life. I add quotation marks because we get too hung up on the labels anyway. Who really knows. Reminds me of the old story of the farmer and his son. Good, bad? Who knows?
In my practice, attachment is something to be studied. Good, bad, (ugly?), we should not get attached to any of it. People who are unfamiliar with this subject often interpret this as meaning we’re feeling apathetic about people and things in life. It’s not that, at all. I have a lot that I love. I have a lot that I don’t love. Attachment, for me, means holding on so tightly that you are trying to contain impermanence in your hands, trapping that reality, and that’s going to lead you to suffer one way or another. You’ll suffer more when you lose the good and suffer more if you hold on to the bad.
I use imagery as a way of helping me remember impermanence. My go-to is simply currently a balloon. It’s not red, lest we invoke thoughts of Stephen King’s Pennywise. It’s just a simple balloon, with color or not, representing whatever it is that I’m experiencing. My feelings, my experiences, both good and bad and in-between, these are balloons I can lightly hold. It’s apt to slip through my fingers, a gentle drift into the sky. Things come and go. The balloons will rise. Somewhere they’ll fall. Another takes its place. A joy arises, I appreciate the joy, and I let it leave my light grip when it’s ready. Stress will arise, like my frequent passengers, anxiety and depression, and I can let those go to, when they’re ready.
Sometimes I catch myself holding on. Sometimes I just don’t see it. I’m holding on, and I’ve somehow tricked myself into not seeing it. There’s the time where meditation practice comes to help. The more I do, the sooner I’m going to notice that I’ve wrapped these feelings and experiences around my hands, binding them.
There’s work to be done. Things come and go. Will you let them?