Lately I am wallowing in attachment. My beloved has been ill, and much of each day is about what I don’t want: more hospital time, another round of antibiotics, a state that refuses reasonable health insurance assistance. Not to mention the lack of ease & time.
What we ‘don’t’ want doesn’t feel like attachment, often. But it is. It’s just the other side of that samsara coin. What I don’t want is the inverse of what I do: I do want time at home, healthy & unworried. I don’t want to wonder if my beloved will be able to walk again, if his knee replacement will ever heal properly so he can be w/out pain. In other words? I’m attached all over the place.
Samsara is a funny thing, though. There are 4 kinds of attachment: sensual/sensory attachment (good smells, tastes, feelings). That’s #1, kamupanana. I’m learning to wean myself from being the wrong kind of attached to these. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy good tea or coffee. It just means I can’t… attach to it.
Then there’s #2 ~ ditthupadana, or attachment to opinions. I am sooo bad about this!! As a scholar, the ‘truth’ of a statement (is there evidence? is it credible?) is big to me. And there needs to be ‘fairness,’ as well. So this is a huge problem in my life. And the only way I’ve found to ‘let go’ of this is to listen, and try verrrry hard to hear with the heart, and not the mind.
#3 is one that makes me crazy when others do it, but I’m sure I’m guilty of it as well: silabbatupadana, or attachment to worn-out rituals & traditions. It’s easy to see when others do it (the idea that marriage is only for a man & a woman, for instance), but harder when I do it myself. Hard enough I can’t think of a ritual I believe in that I acknowledge as worn-out…!
Finally, there’s attavadupadana, #4. This is the tricky one, and the one most of us will never really get beyond. It’s attachment to the idea that there is a self. As human beings — and Westerners are the worst! — we believe in single minds, hearts, souls. Each of us an individual, unique. It’s what keeps us alive, as Buddhist teachings acknowledge. But in reality? Knowing what we do about messy electron fields, and the breath, and how matter becomes energy which doesn’t really die… Just how solitary is any one of us? There are microorganisms alive within us. Are they ‘me’? What about the breath I inhale that is full of other microorganisms, and the molecules of sweat given off by the runner on the elevator with me?
I know — this is a LOT about attachment. And it’s not easy. But somehow, as I ricochet through these hard past few weeks, I’m still trying to get my head & heart around it. And learn to let go. To remember that only the big blue sky remains — our Buddha nature. Which we all share. So, since I’m a poet, and metaphor is how I think & form meaning, I’m trying to think of attachment as the paperclip. It’s what holds me to the coffee, to the yearning for health & time. Health and time don’t go away because I take away that paperclip. They’re still there, & I can still appreciate them. It’s the paperclip I need to let fall…
‘Whales Weep Not!’, by D. H. Lawrence is amazing. I like Lawrence’s poetry — many don’t. But who knew he did a whale poem? And that it would so beautifully illustrate all we have in common with all the life around us.
We know whales are sentient, of course. But this poem, written with Lawrence’s famous (notorious?) sensuality, reminds us that love is part of sentience. And thinking of love makes it difficult to excuse whaling.
I love the ocean, in part because it’s a completely different world. The beings beneath its silvery surface go about their lives with little visible to me, up here on the land-locked prairie. But as always, a piece of art ~ a poem ~ can be a window. Or even a kind of submarine, allowing me to ‘see’ whale love. Allowing me to see my own fist love longlimbed swimmer in the images the poem draws. It’s what art does best, open us up. Crack holes so the light gets in…
That’s pretty amazing, I’d say. Love between sentient beings just isn’t all that different, the poem says. And it offers a lovely, gentle nudge to be more mindful of the web that connects us all.
I have heart family. Brothers who have grown into their places, sisters who do not need similar faces to be part of my heart’s family. Once I even had almost-mothers, and almost-aunts, each now lost to time and distance.
This weekend, one of my brothers is here to visit his own father (no kin – real or otherwise – to me). His father is elderly, and fragile. Although sometimes I wonder if that ‘Greatest Generation’ isn’t stronger than all their children!
My brother’s unexpected visit reminds me that I have lost touch w/ other friends, from other times: friends I now have nothing in common with. Men & women who were once almost as dear to me as my family now – real & otherwise. 🙁
Why do some friendships last lifetimes? What feeds that kind of love, where other loves wither & fall away from us? Is it like values? Shared experiences? Random luck? My brother lives a day’s journey from me, and he & his wife had their children much later than we had ours, although all four of us adults are about the same age. Their youngest is 14 – mine is more than twice that. So yes, we both have children. But so do people I have let go of, people I have watched slip past me into a that was then time.But G’s children — his three intelligent, sensitive, amazing daughters — call me ‘Aunt.’ They email me sometimes, send me a paper draft to look at. Share their lives with me. They too are family.
When G & his beloved A & the three girls come to town, they always get in touch. A & one of the girls & I also connect through FB. And when they come, like most families, we have traditions: a visit to our favourite museum restaurant & garden, a walk across the river bridge. I give them trinkets, sometimes. They gift me with origami cranes & frogs & boxes.
My brother & sister-in-law shares my values, sure. But so, once, did others. I suppose part of today’s relationship is that my brother & I – and our beloveds – have grown into similar values as we’ve aged. That isn’t true of many of my once-upon-a-time friends, who now espouse political positions I find heartbreaking.
So here I am, beyond grateful for what is, in some ways, random luck. Wondering – believer in magic that I am – if there is intent to the universe. If my brother & his wife – closer to me than some blood family – are ‘meant’ to be part of my life. The usual ties that bind do not tie us: we live far from each other; we have different time lines; we work in different fields. And still? We are family. But because we don’t share blood ties, I am the more grateful that we continue together. It does, indeed, seem magical.
If you’re lucky enough to have heart family, you know exactly what I mean. And I’m sure you treasure them as much as I do, knowing well what they bring to your beginner’s heart. Today? Drop a line to one of your heart family. Let them know you love them. It will be a gift to both of you.
I read a blog post yesterday that resonated with me. It began: Sometimes I wonder why I write a blog…
It’s not like I change lives. Or even really make a huge difference. It’s not like I have a zillion followers. I’ve spent this past month thinking about my blog. Thinking about the five years I’ve spent on it: planning, writing, revising, responding. And I have to agree w/ the man who asked the question: why do I write this blog? What’s my point? What’s THE point?
As a non-Christian – an animistic Unitarian Buddhist – I’m certainly out of sync w/ the majority of Beliefnet bloggers (& readers). Initially, when my old friend & colleague recruited me, I was not only glad to have a home (still am!): I was also glad to be a minority voice, someone to counteract the bloggers on the site who called for extremist (to me) reactions to various groups & actions. And while this still applies, it’s no longer enough.
Besides ~ I wonder if anyone who disagrees with me would bother to read me. I’m never been more than a very quiet voice in the mainstream wilderness. The one time I swore, I was reprimanded (rightly so: my grandmother used to say that profanity showed a limited imagination!). And as I watch the liberal side of politics fragment the way the conservative side already has, I’m growing tired of advocating for reason. Sometimes I too want to just rant & rail. Even though I know it’s not the path to beginner’s heart.
What do you do, gentle readers, when you feel impotent to effect change? When you feel like a solitary voice swallowed in the great booming confusion? How do you go beyond that sense of futility? Just wondering, as I sit at my desk typing…