“Suffering equals attachment to expectations.”
Q: Can you tell me how to get rid of attachment and aversion?
It’s not about eliminating (getting rid of) anything but seeing that it’s all arising in you – consciousness. This is awakening. Experiential focus or identity is shifted from the foreground (phenomena) to the background (consciousness). When this is recognised to be true in your experience the need for elimination of ANYTHING disappears. All is accepted as an arising in you, and this is true freedom. From this, peace is found and suffering is eliminated. Suffering is the lack of acceptance of WHAT IS.
Let me give an example to illustrate why this recognition is actually the most fundamental recognition of awakening.
Just as the clouds appear and disappear in the sky, phenomena (thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc.) are appearing and disappearing in you. Is the sky any less the sky just because it has clouds, or a storm in it? No. Are you any less YOU if there’s something arising in you? No.
We become either attached or averse because we mistake the phenomena for ourselves. We believe we are good or bad, right or wrong if we have certain experiences (phenomena) showing up and so we try to keep or get rid of these things. Consciousness makes no distinction, consciousness is ALL that shows up, ALL THAT IS. No separate piles of good consciousness to keep and bad consciousness to get rid of, no separation at all – just a continuous flow and play of life appearing as different forms and experiences.
It’s only the limited human ego (mind) that judges and says what should or shouldn’t be. If you can see through this and understand experientially (not just intellectually) that this is the futile continuous hamster wheel of the mind, you’ll come to the end of needing life to be anything but WHAT IT IS. You’ll see that the peace, freedom and stability that you seek is in fact right here when the seeking is dropped. When the hands of life let go of the grasping for what ISN’T and accept what IS.
Keep quiet, let all judgements cease, and what you are left with is what is. If this can be accepted into your heart, then you are free, then even if attachment or aversion show up… they will be seen as yet another phenomena arising in YOU, consciousness YOU. And the beauty of it is… you need nothing to be what you ARE.
I was asked the other day how I deal with being around others, particularly when there’s a level of pretending or not speaking your truth that seems to be required of you.
I too know all too well this feeling of suffocation in the company of others. The subtle unsaid permissions of what you can say, which topics you can touch on and how deep that can go. The unsaid permissions that someone can’t give for fear of threatening their own sense of Self, views and place in the world that they hold so tightly so as to keep the facade of security and knowingness intact.
I think this is why the idea of Sanghas can be so enticing, a place to commune with others who were of like mind and place in their journey of unfoldment, of seeing. A place when you can find common ground and openness, common experience and views. Alas it’s not as easy as it sounds to find the ‘right’ sangha!
You are lucky if you can find this in a partner or in a close friend or two – this is what I have with Martyn and this is what I am eternally grateful for. Alone together and full permission and delight of me to be me and him to be him. The freedom to be as we are, the freedom to plumb the depths and go anywhere – no ‘sacred cows’ that are off-limits.
You asked how I deal with the difficulty of pretending with others. Firstly I take plenty of time to go into my aloneness, isolation and unknowingness and revel in the freedom to be. This place of ‘only don’t know’ is such a beautiful place to be. Beautiful and vulnerable. Delicate, embracing and loving but powerful and full of strength. It’s in this space that we can truly see ourselves and breath in the fullness of existence. Taking this time of solitude is incredibly important, especially for me being the hermit and introvert that I am.
But these days when I am with others I find myself laying it all out to bare, trusting in this process and letting the chips fall where they may. Standing in my truth, being open and honest and trusting. Trusting that even if I get push-back or hurt that I can handle it, that they can handle it too and the freedom to be me, the freedom for them to be them is much more important than any particular outcomes. It has meant the loosing and changing of many relationships, but it has also meant the discovery of those relationships that can withstand this vulnerable nakedness of openness and truth that I find myself standing in.
Then of course there are those relationships where masking and pretending is absolutely necessary. Practically speaking I try to minimise the amount of time spent in these types of interactions, that certainly helps. Making sure that I do have plenty of alone time and nourishing relationships where masking and pretending isn’t needed so that there is capacity for those relationships where it’s not possible. Also in those interactions to find as much openness and compassion as is available in any given moment. To not shame or blame the need to protect, defend or set unsaid boundaries, but honoring and accepting those boundaries where we find them. Understand that they are often there for a reason, even if it’s a reason I (or they) can’t see or understand.
From a broader view of this topic generally for me it was the attachments to outcomes and desires in terms of interactions and relationships that had to go. The attachment to the desire of people liking me, people seeing me, the desire to looking a certain way, to be loved or even liked. Even the attachment to the desire to connect deeply or in a certain way, to be understood and acknowledged.
The power in the lack of attachment has been enormous for me, scary but completely freeing. I have nothing to lose, I have no rights to certain outcomes of how I think things should go. I just am who I am in any moment, it’s raw and risky feeling but it’s real and honest. And so in this I’m eternally grateful for what I do have, for all that comes across my path, forget about ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
There is only so much that one can repress and suffocate themselves, the cracks begin to show. The holes start forming and things start to escape in more violent and unpredictable ways.
I encourage you to breath into the fullness of your experience, let the chips fall where they may and find those moments, those people, those spaces, those pages even, where you can freely be YOU.
The image of relationships and enlightenment don’t normally go hand in hand. The stereotyped image of the ‘enlightened monk’, shunning the material householder life is something that’s been around in spiritual traditions for a long time. So out of this there comes the common misconception that you can’t be in a relationship and be successful on the ‘spiritual path’. But being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that awakening can’t be there too. The relationship doesn’t have to go, only the attachment to the relationship has to go. Don’t get me wrong, the result of that dropped attachment may actually be that the relationship ends. Ultimately that’s what was meant to happen, and all attachments do eventually fall away – what’s left is what’s left, maybe the relationship will be there, maybe not.
My own relationship has taught me that relationships in themselves aren’t some obstructive thing that stops you from realizing your own nature. Having said that, I lived through the often painful dropping of the attachment to my relationship with my husband Martyn. We found ourselves at an impasse after he had a spiritual awakening that in the wake of he felt he could no longer be at the ashram where we were living, and I felt I couldn’t be anywhere else. He couldn’t be there, and I couldn’t NOT be there; this resulted in us parting ways with no end to our separation in sight. When we said our goodbyes they were potentially permanent goodbyes, we didn’t have any idea if we would ever see each other again. There was immense love for one another, but our situation in life was physically parting us and it was torture.
I cried myself to sleep for the days and weeks that followed. I spent my days on the verge of crying, feeling like my insides had been ripped out. And yet there was nothing I could do other than endure it. Connection to the internet for both of us was incredibly patchy so we would maybe speak once a week, and because of the turmoil that both of us were feeling it would invariable end up in an argument – often over how to resolve the situation, or ending with an angry and frustrated, “well it’s over then!?!”.
I felt torn, I wanted to be with him, but I felt I needed to be where I was. My life appeared to be crumbling before my eyes, such strong seemingly overwhelming feelings were right at the forefront of my experience. I was suffering and I felt so alone.
The suffering that I was experiencing all came from the expectation of how I imagined or conceived the relationship ‘should be’ rather than how it actually is/was. This ‘should’ was now not being met, and the attachment to this ‘should’ was a strong one. In relationships we may not even notice that there’s attachment there, (especially if for the most part it’s been a smooth sailing healthy relationship like mine was) but there’s always a subtle fear of loss, and from this, suffering can arise. In this attachment we are either always holding on to something we have with a feeling of fear or loss, or trying to get something that we feel we lack.
It’s funny because in the wake of this or rather the flip side, I also felt a sense of strength in my new found independence. We had been together since I was 18 so it was a completely new experience to not have to worry or think about anyone else, to make decisions without referring to anyone else was a liberating feeling. So even with this turmoil there I also experienced the growth and discovery of strength that I didn’t know I had. I experienced who I was away from who I took myself to be within our relationship; who I was living prior to any labels and ideas of being a ‘someone’ to ‘somebody else’.
At the pinnacle of that torturous two months I began having ‘panic attacks’. I couldn’t deal with these strong emotions, they got the the point where it wasn’t even strong emotions, it was just intense energy coursing through my veins. I spoke to both Martyn and the spiritual teacher at the ashram about this and both gave me pretty much the same pointing:
“Don’t give so much importance to this energy, trying to understand and work it out, just feel it. Let it pass through you. See that you are aware of all of this happening.”
I felt like I was talked down from the ledge a few times by them. But eventually the innocent observation of these strong energies led me to be able to let go of the attachment I had about being physically together. An ease came about in accepting what was (is). This was among one of the most difficult times of my life thus far, but with it came an openness and an acceptance of what was showing up in my life. I let go of any ideas of how the relationship ‘should’ be – good or bad, it didn’t matter – everything had to go.
Throughout all this upheaval I intuitively knew that what was happening was somehow inevitable; to have the attachment of the relationship torn from me. I had to accept the separation and along with it the attachment to Martyn and our wonderful relationship, for it was the non-acceptance that was causing immeasurable suffering.
It’s funny, once this attachment had given way to acceptance everything immediately shifted, and a few weeks later an opportunity for Martyn and I live in a house in the nearby village came up. And so to our complete surprise, we found ourselves once again in physical proximity when only weeks before that possibility looked lost forever. The attachment to the relationship and the shoulds and should-nots have never returned. I know that both individually and in our relationship we continue to evolve, and whatever happens – whether we stay together or not – it doesn’t hold the same neediness of attachment.
I see now what a gift it was to have this strong and intensely embedded attachment brought so clearly (and painfully) to the surface. For it was in this hard lesson of letting go that I was able to clearly recognise my essential nature, prior to all attachments, all concepts of ‘shoulds’, and all suffering.