How is it that the mind is so much more agile and able to turn over ideas and philosophies with such ease … in the pre-dawn?
With rain falling softly against the window at 5am, and my iPad lighting up the room, I swiped my screen to find a Sunday Review piece called Abundance Without Attachment. With an engaging narrative, writer Arthur C. Brook challenged readers to consider the ‘Christmas Conundrum.’ That is the competing notions of generosity and goodwill this holiday season juxtaposed with the crass commercialism and related material expectations that surround us this time of year.
Brook recalled an encounter with a Hindu Swami who grew up as a young man of affluence in Houston, TX. After an MBA and early success the young man — unsatisfied — renounced his former life, entered a Hindu seminary, found new strength and now practices a simpler life in New Delhi. The Swami explained the problem in life isn’t money, but attachment to money. The formula for a good life, he explained to Brook, is simple: abundance without attachment.
Augmenting this concept further Brook made reference to the Dalai Lama’s writing: “The real issue, he writes, is our delusion that ‘satisfaction can arise from gratifying the senses alone.’ ”
I could feel my synapses start to fire as the rain kept a steady beat. There’s something else here.
In Tibetan, the word “attachment” is translated as “do chag,” which literally means “sticky desire.” It signifies a desperate grasping at something, motivated by fear of separation from the object. One can find such attachment in many dysfunctional corners of life, from jealous relationships to paranoia about reputation and professional standing.
This philosophy came alive to me with an application beyond Christmas materialism and greed. It struck me that this also applies to our attachment to ideas.
I had a visceral flashback to my unhealthy attachment — years ago — to a life that was not mine. That life involved getting pregnant with ease, raising children with my mate and following a well-defined path. For a large portion of my adulthood the concept of that life held a very strong hold over me — a deep desire. As I desperately grasped at it and feared separation from it, negative emotions emerged when I couldn’t achieve it. I was left with an emptiness and loss of strength followed by a wash of sadness and simmering anger.
And that takes me back to Brook’s central claim: “The frustration and emptiness so many people feel at this time of year is not an objection to the abundance per se, nor should it be. It is a healthy hunger for nonattachment.”
It was only when I let go of my attachment to a life that would never be and fully detached from the related expectations that a transformation, an awakening occurred. Like the heroine Elsa in the animated movie Frozen I realized …
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free
The act of facing my deepest fear and separating once and for all from one particular life path opened up another. I not only could feed my hunger. Suddenly I had everything to gain.
9 thoughts on “New Philosophy: Everything To Gain”
this is beautiful Pamela. And such an important lesson that I’m still learning. Our world equates life success with having certain things to show. Usually this translates into being married, having 2.5 kids, living in a certain type of home and having certain possessions to show off (or taking certain vacations). Yet isn’t it funny that those who strive hardest to have it all ultimately find themselves unhappy? That by equating our worth to societies expectations we ultimately end up unhappy?
Right now I’m in the middle of transition. And I really crave some stability. But as we go into the holiday season, I’m reminded that what is most important to me I already have. My family may not be considered perfect or fit into the stereotypes, but it is my family. Just as you have a beautiful family that you’ve built. And both versions are beautiful.
Thanks for the good reminder to focus on the gifts we have and that it is okay to let go.
There’s nothing harder than feeling buffeted by change and not having a sense of stability or grounding. Glad you are embracing what does give you peace and wholeness. Like you, I am grateful for the intangibles: the love of family and the connection and acceptance of friends who as one put it so well, “are willing to put up with my act!”
We are all a work in process. xo
The pre-dawn hours are my favorite time of day. I find that my thoughts are clearest and most unrestricted when it’s just me, my coffee, quiet, and the dark.
The commercialism part of the holiday system bothers me. I’m not a religious person but I think that generosity without the expectation of recognition or reward and goodwill towards your fellow man are important things to practice. I’ve always enjoyed giving much more than receiving.
The abundance without attachment concept is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, both within the context of infertility and life in general, so I really appreciate both your blog post and the article that inspired it. The sum of my experiences has shaped and continues to shape me, obviously, but I feel like I’m at a crossroads in my life where I can either choose to continue to allow the pain and grief of infertility and other things to shape my life or turn over a new leaf. (Being intentionally vague here to keep my comment to a semi-reasonable length.) “Everything to gain” is a great way to look at it. I think there are some big changes on the horizon for me in 2015. Scary but necessary.
Great piece and subject matter! I struggle with the attachment thing a lot, often feeling caught between the freedom of non attachment and yearnings that are, in the end, just so darned human.
Thanks too for the mention, I was caught totally by surprise.
Yes, I completely understand the unhealthy attachment — not that long ago — to a life that was not mine.
PS: I loved watching Elsa with you.
I love this. I’ve often thought that if only we (the infertile) could let go our attachment to “what should have been” then we would be free to focus on the “what is now and will be.” Part of it is the expectation that we will be given the gifts we want, that we are owed something in life. Yet in reality, we shouldn’t expect anything. And on good days, I don’t feed or feel that hunger. It is as you say liberating.
So beautifully true and wise. It’s been so great to connect with you this year and many thanks for all your support. Here’s to lots of new and inspirational paths opening up to childless women everywhere in 2015! Much love Jessica x
Likewise, Jessica! Couldn’t agree more with your New Year’s wishes. xx
Missed this post in the hectic pre-holiday shuffle. I totally agree that we can become overly attached to ideas as well as things. Most of us accept that our possessions can become worn and outdated and not fit our lifestyles anymore — why not our ideas too?