MANY REGARD LIVING WITHOUT ATTACHMENT AS A VIRTUE AND SOMETHING TO WHICH TO ASPIRE. But, in my experience no amount of striving, even for those who meditate, can bring you to this state. To strive for such a state is to be attached to it and so paradoxically the very thing sought carries within it a kernel which makes it an inevitable impossibility.
Just over a month ago I was living happily in Turkey. I loved both the people and the climate. Life revolved around domestic chores, servicing the needs of Irem my partner, and twelve year old daughter. Every day I would walk and make some photographs, cook lunch, write a little, wash-up and smile.
It’s now been a couple of years since the day when, whilst wiping up some dishes, I felt the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders and knew that, despite appearances, all is well and as it should be.
Attachment to Prematurely Editing Self-Talk
Simply Reinforces The Ego
With this realization came a detachment from the habitual self-talk in my head. I had listened to this intently in the past and let it create all kinds of emotions within. As a psychotherapist I come across articles by those who suggest we rewrite our self-talk – reframing these words to be more positive. It doesn’t really work because words aren’t the source of anxiety they are, rather, a consequence of it.
The words in my head didn’t stop with the cessation of anxiety. Now, however, I find I have the power to edit and rewrite them without adding a personal level of judgmental stress.
Happy in Hartland
Today celebrates my second week living in Hartland, Devon. I am still lodged in a B & B, but very comfortable here. I was roped into selling books in aid of The Small School, because my daughter is now a pupil. It was a wonderful morning in which I met all manner of sociable people living simple, ecologically-based lives. Certainly, there seemed no sign of the ambitious hurly-burly world of Istanbul where I was just two weeks ago.
I am amazed because the cold, some might say, inclement weather seems to warm my soul.
Abandoning A Mediterranean Beach
How can this be so? The recent past of swimming off a Mediterranean beach already seems a dream of yesterday. It’s fading, whilst life today is three dimensional. Were I attached to the past I would be enduring pain, rather than the bliss that comes from being open to possibility. Such openness is an unexpected quality of living without attachment.
Many in the Non-Dualist community claim we can do nothing to bring about such a way of being. Fundamentally, I agree, but since each of us is simply pure being experiencing a unique mysterious reality bubble in which we appear to be an individual who can make choices there’s no shame in going along with this game of life, provided we don’t get suckered into believing we’re really a person deciding anything.
Living The Dream
Think of a dream. In it you seem to make choices, even if the normal laws of physics no longer apply, or you have special powers such as the ability to fly. When you awaken, however, you tell yourself it was all a dream. Today I regard everyday reality as also a dream. For me life is like an infinite Russian doll in which being is layered upon being, a dream within a dream, within a dream.
So if you are riddled with attachment and negative self-talk, or believe that the world is a terrible place, why not pretend that you accept that what happens is what happens, eschew making up stories to explain events, and simply attend to what comes along.
Terry Cooper, a former director of Alpha House, the U.K’s first therapeutic community for those suffering addiction problems, once shared with me a metaphor that seems apposite. It dates from days when milk was delivered to people’s doorsteps in bottles.
Terry advised that when milk was delivered we should take it in and keep it fresh. We might put it on tea, or coffee. We could make porridge, or add it to corn-flakes. Later we might bake cakes, or even Yorkshire Pudding, or Welsh Rarebit. If any, then, is left we make a milky pudding. At the end of the day we wash the bottle and leave it on the step to await the morning and a new delivery.
We have choices about how we consume our milk, and even if we choose to wash out the bottle or return it unwashed to the door-step. But what happens at the dairy, or the farm, or in the families of milk or cowmen isn’t our concern, We cannot influence them, or even pretend to do so.
I think this a great metaphor for how to engage with life, even if milk-men now only exist in that dream we call the past.