I am finally coming to the end of the flu. Not the cough cough, sniffle sniffle kind, but the blocked head, razor throat, rivers of muck (too much information?) and the I will NEVER EVER be okay kind.
This sickness has caused me to miss one of my closest friend's big birthdays. I sadly missed saying goodbye to my wonderful MBSR group on their last night. I had to pass up a few teaching gigs and I still miss my good friends and beautiful family who I have strategically distanced myself from to prevent their contamination.
I know people are in much worse places than me and it's just a cold, but boy oh boy, does laying low give one's thoughts and emotions time to play out their course. They went in waves:
My brain will never work again so teaching is off the cards.
My friends will forget me and I'll be No Fun Rita.
My family can do without me and eventually I'll fade from their lives forever.
No energy means no walking, so energetic holidays are over…….
It's actually all over really….
Blah blah blah
It's been fun.
So. What to make of it all?
I've been thinking about perception, about how I look at life when its not going the way I want it to. In this blog post, I'm going to be looking at attachments and expectations, and try to put a few things in perspective.
Welcome to the August Mindfulness Monthly. May you all be healthy and live life with ease and energy.
"This is a wonderful day. I've never seen this one before."
- Mary Angelou
There is an old story about a Zen master and his student:
The master and young monk were about to cross a river on foot, but before they did so they came across a young woman on the riverbank who wanted to cross but was too small and fragile to make the journey. So the kind old master carried her on his back across the river. This upset the young monk a great deal as he felt his master had violated the vinaya, the ‘rules’ of the masters. The monk kept quiet for a few days but felt increasingly upset and angry with his master as each day passed. Eventually he couldn’t help it and told his master he was very angry. The old master laughed and laughed telling the young monk, ‘I left the woman the minute we finished crossing the river, but you have been carrying her until now.
How do I live a free life when I care so much about the things I am attached to?
Thanks to a timely gift by a good friend, I have been reading Everyday Enlightenment by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa. His Holiness points out that it is good to have tenderness and care about certain things in our lives. However, that is not the same as having attachments.
He says we should recognise when those connections support us, allow us to grow, provide inspiration and momentum. And then to recognise when they keep us stuck, fearful, jealous or even bored. It could be people that drain us, wealth that fixates and drives us, and habits that waste our time.
When we label a person, a material thing or a fixed idea of who we are or where we're going as "me" and "mine", we set ourselves up for the possibility of hurt, disappointment, jealousy and anger. The person may change, you may lose your wealth, you may be boxed in through old memories of yourself, and finally, your expectations and untamed desires may have you looking for happiness in all the wrong places.
We are human beings, it's in our nature to form connections, especially when we are inspired by a person or place. However, they need to be examined. Whether our attachments are positive for us and have a relaxed joyful nature or whether they stir up the more disturbing, ‘grasping’ emotions in us, I think we all know the difference.
Expectations kill the beauty of life. They keep us fearful of disappointment and keep us running and busy. At the end of the day it will all be gone: your possessions, reputation, relationships and body. Businesses and buildings will collapse and good friends and families will leave or be left. At the end we must be comfortable being alone with ourselves. Practicing non-attachment can make you one of the luckiest people in the world.
How To Practice Non-Attachment
Notice when you are feeling desire for something - a person, a new watch, new job, new car, a slice of lemon meringue pie. The next 'thing' that is going to make you happy.
Then take a moment, walk away. Relax. Play with how long the desire lasts. Can you distract yourself? Does some other desire take over?
And of course, you may become so fixated that you must get it. We're only practicing, remember?
Then notice how long the satisfaction lasts. Five minutes, a day...
And then what do you desire next?
Becoming conscious of desire and aversion (what we like and what we don't like) changes our perspective and interrupts the cycle of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Perhaps you'll be able to step lighter in the world. It's certainly worth a try.