Tag Archives: being present

Burning Attachment

A couple of years ago I decided that my next personal transformation goal was to master the art of a letting go of  attachment.

Along came the Afrika Burn, I had been wanting to go for ages, and this was the year it was finally on the cards. My burn buddy was all lined up to go with me, and lucky, lucky, her sister and a crowd of her very experienced friends happened to be going that same year. They had an entire themed camp planned, they knew what to do, and the best spot to do it form, and we were invited to join. Perfect, soo exciting!

Then my burn buddy dropped me, family obligations. O..K.. pretty bummed, but I thought I was practicing lack of attachment by just letting it be and forging forward.
In a way, I was. Flexibility, letting go of what I thought it would be, and going with the flow. I would still join the others, though I barely knew them, it would be fine. Ja, nee.

See, I was still very attached to going to the event and to the idea of going with others, having buddies there, even if I had just met them through her sister. My lack of attachment looked OK for a while, and then it all fell over. The whole camp fell off the map, no one could attend after all, and if I wanted to go, it would be alone, which is no fun for me.
I was devastated!

I once went to a talk by a Buddhist monk. She spoke about a virtuous object. At the time, I had no idea what she was going on about, but I believe that it’s all about when something you don’t want, happens, and the virtue of this is the opportunity to practice your spiritual goal.
In this case my goal for the year: lack of attachment
The virtuous object: Afrika Burn plans falling down.

I believed what I though of as a lack of attachment, would mean I was open to the many ways that the generous universe would deliver to me WHAT I WANTED. Useful, certainly. But the virtuous object showed me that it also means begin able to not be attached to what I want AT ALL, which, in that moment, totally sucked.

What is the line between not having a dream or passion, and not being too attached to an outcome? How do we stay excited, motivated and moving towards something, and still be OK if we never get there?  A quandary.

I guess that  it is all about living in the moment. I won’t lie, I can get pretty attached to what I think this moment should look like too for it to be a “good moment”.  And that is the ultimate fine line. Can I live in this moment as it looks now, let go of of whatever I thought it would look like, and suck every possible bit of joy and pleasure from it whatever it turns out to be? To live peacefully in the truth of what is, rather then the longing for what I had hoped it would be?

Mastering a lack of attachment is the biggest of the big girl panties required for a happy life. When I get it right, I get to be in my life, fully present, and having a great time sucking the marrow out of it. Bliss. When I don’t, it’s all crap, disappointment and woe is me.

Does this mean I don’t dream, have exciting ideas, set lofty goals? Not at all. It just means that I don’t have to stress, freak out, live in disappointment if they don’t work out or look exactly as I thought they would at the end of the day, and I get to love the journey.

When dreaming ruins your living

Ang looking up (small)

Consider this…How do you measure success or failure? What do you measure your success or failure by? In recent years I have discovered that how you measure success or failure is directly related to whether you tend to be happy, motivated and satisfied or frustrated, angst or irritated with your day. If you are finding yourself more irritated and fearful than happy and satisfied, this might be worth considering.

After a good 20 years of doing battle with my day to day, it finally occurred to me that the goals that I set as essentially sucked out of my thumb. I decide that I want them, what they will look like and when I should have them by. I imagine them up and the proceed to attempt to bring them to life by applying myself diligently, day by day towards achieving them. That is all great, no problem there, I am all over that dreaming big thing.

Here is the snafu. I like most people I know, I very quickly forgot that I had made up my goals pretty much arbitrarily – really, they seemed like a good idea at the time and behold the goal was born. Forgetting that fact, I allowed myself to attach pretty strongly to the goal, and to use it as a measure of my own self worth. Behold, the goal that I have arbitrarily created now becomes the whip on my back, the measure of my good enough-ness, my ability, who I am as a person, my very identity. Bye bye the exiting, positive, creative joy of working towards my dream, bye bye the jumping out of bed, can’t wait to get started, hello stress, pressure, fear, unhappiness, self judgement. WTF!

I myself have decided to measure my everyday success at work not by what I achieve in that day – despite my best efforts, I often achieve much less than I set out to – nor by whether I can get things or others, or the world to “go my way” – alas, I have discovered that I lack control in that arena too, but instead, did I turn up, dedicate myself, get involved and engaged, enjoy what I was doing as much as possible, work on loving my day, myself and my life. After all, I am only alive in this moment, right now in this place, doing this thing, I am not yet alive in the undefined future when I finally have the outcome. If I don’t decide to love the process of my day to day life, no amount of money, fame or other success in ?? years will replace a life lost to fear, frustration, and a lack of joy.

And what about the long term dream? I now choose to be in acceptance around that. I want it, I am willing to do the work, despite that, I may or may not achieve it. I no longer allow the achieving it to define me. It is just a dream that I dream because it pleases me and inspires me today. If I can’t manage to make it work, as I had hoped, I am quite sure I can find another.

It is neither good nor bad….

My Favorite story
So, today I was reminded of the following story. I absolutely love this story, it reminds me that we judge things are normally good or bad, because they do or don’t fit into our plan – it is not the situation itself but the judgment on them that makes them feel “good” or “bad’ to us, and our emotional response follows.

I didn’t, unfortunately make the story up, and sadly don’t know who to credit it to. It goes like this:

There was an old man living in a small village in a small country. He owned a beautiful white stallion which was the envy of every one who saw it. It came to the attention of the emperor, who sent an agent to buy the stallion. But the man loved the horse and refused the generous offer. His fellow villagers thought him mad – “that kind of money is not easy to come by.” They remonstrated.

Some time later the stallion broke out of it’s corral and ran off. “you see’, cried the villagers, it was a bad thing that you did not sell the horse for now you have no horse and no money.” The old man replied “It is neither good nor bad, it simply is what it is, for we can never know the whole story”.

Some time later the stallion returned to the village trailing behind him a brood of wild mares that he had picked up in the mountains. “You were right’ cried the villagers “good thing that the horse ran off, now you have a whole herd.” The old man replied “It is neither good nor bad, it simply is what it is, for we can never know the whole story”.

Some time later the old man’s son was breaking one of the wild mares for the saddle, and he was thrown and broke both his legs, becoming lame. “Oh ho,” the villages pronounced “it was a bad thing that the horse came back with this herd, now your son is lame. Better to have no horses then a lame son.” The old man replied “It is neither good nor bad, it simply is what it is, for we can never know the whole story”.

Some time later the small country went to war with it’s neighbor, and the emperor started a conscription campaign, conscripting all the young men in the villages of the land. The villages knew that their sons were unlikely to make it home alive. “Who would have thought, it is a good thing your son is lame, at least he will survive this terrible war, when our sons will most likely die” they declared to the old man “It is neither good nor bad, it simply is what it is, for we can never know the whole story”.