via creative commons
via creative commons

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.

the author's
the author’s

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?

the author's
the author’s

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…

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