We often hear that we should detach ourselves. But what does it mean? Simply put: when we separate ourselves from somebody or something, we detach ourselves. When we experience attachment (raga) we base our happiness on what is external, in example our possessions, money, food or even our partner.

I, over the past week, have been thinking a lot about attachment, as I have started to sort through my possessions, especially the things I’ve had in cupboards that I haven’t touched in years, yet for a variety of reasons have always kept. There is nothing like moving to force you to face your attachments. I am amazed at the amount of things I was able to discard without getting emotionally involved or upset about the whole process. Perhaps because I am ready to move on and embark on a new phase in my life; perhaps because I have come to learn that my happiness and contentment in life has a different source. Perhaps…

When it came to throwing away old love letters and the many letters received from students I have taught through my many transformations as a teacher, I fully expected to be hesitant and emotional. Surprisingly enough I was neither. I did read through them all, as a means of ‘letting go’ and found myself laughing out loud, as I remembered those days, long gone. I had a mini trip down memory lane that was heart-warming and special, but I also realised that all those experiences are part of me, and I do not need to be reminded of them by holding on to a suitcase full of letters.

Mmmmm, as I am writing this, I know I am contradicting myself, as my thoughts immediately jumped to the box filled with little odds and ends that I collected on my travels, the baby shoes I once wore, the tea set I never use that belonged to my late mother…. The list can go on and on. Will I get rid of these? Most certainly not! Would I be emotionally upset and in agony if I have to lose these treasures? Not really. Well maybe a little bit at first. So why do I insist on keeping them? Perhaps because they are like photographs: snapshots of my life; reminders of experiences; and proof that I have lived. Many years from now when old age surprise me with more life behind me than ahead of me, I may just find these memories comforting. Who knows? They are a bit like a pension plan: investing in the ‘security’ of my future. Will it help? Well, only time will tell, as everything changes and evolves, and nothing is certain except for the impermanence of all things.

I have found the following lovely exercise in Robert Butera’s excellent book “The pure heart of Yoga”, that is a great way to understand and put different attachments into perspective. He advises some quiet, uninterrupted time in which to contemplate the following passage from Jain teachings. So get really comfortable, relax your whole body, and read through the passage a couple of times, before closing your eyes and contemplating what you have read for about 5 minutes. Repeat this as often as you need to, until you find the answers you are looking for.

Anitya Bhavana

What was in the morning is not at the midday; what was at the midday is not at night; for all things are transitory. Our body, which is really the cause for all kinds of human efforts, is as transitory as the scattering clouds. All our objects of pleasure are changing. Wealth is as transitory as a wave; youth like a cotton particle blown off in a whirlwind; and opportunities like the fleeting dreams. Why should I be attached to anything when nothing is permanent and everything is changing?


1 Comment

  1. August 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Somehow you touched a cord deep down in my being… keeping your baby shoes and the tea set that belonged to … Today you made me cry… It´s good I think it is little things like this that is the glue that sticks the pictures of memories of our past in our minds.

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