Practising non-attachment to things
Posted by J Russell
Warning: this post contains metaphysics that might be irritating to some readers.
It’s not easy to do, but when one experiences suffering it can act as a signpost that we are too attached to things: objects, thoughts, feelings, outcomes, even people. I went to some Buddhist classes (last year now) and this is what we were taught: attachment causes suffering. I don’t follow Buddhism especially, but this is one teaching that has stuck; the other was that of observing the mind through mindfulness.
Anyway to illustrate the point in the case of objects, today, when I dropped my phone, face down, in the supermarket car park and cracked the screen, I immediately began to suffer. I felt angry with myself, with the phone. Then I was upset because it looked spoiled, with a big spider crack across the top of the screen. Then I rang someone to moan, and they didn’t say the right thing, so then I was cross with them too, and after a couple of minutes of making this big ball of anger and upset and frustration and the whole why is life just so damn unfair? shebang… I caught myself at it.
I was causing myself to suffer all these feelings simply through attachment to an object. Ok, it’s a nice object, and I use it a lot, and I wouldn’t want to be without a phone for the rest of my life, but still… phones break if you drop them, and people drop things (I drop things a lot). It’s just what happens.
I looked at the crack again. It struck me that I go round taking photos of rusty things and old things and dead things and generally say that imperfection is more interesting than plain old perfection, so why was I freaking out about a crack? As cracks go, it wasn’t that bad. And it could be fixed, if I wanted.
Now, I must admit at this point that the phone had not lost all functionality. I think I would have suffered a little longer over that, but maybe one day I’ll be able to let that go too. Now that really would be some proper non-attachment to something. It might sound odd, but it helps me step out from the old suffering loop, which in turn keeps the mind in balance, so I just wanted to pass it on.