Examining Attachment

Gendun Drup, 1st Dalai Lama

Image via Wikipedia

A few times per year, my work brings me to nearby cities. In cities, if I have free time, I customarily wear myself out through walking several miles. This past summer brought me to Boston, which is not a new city for me. My mother and I lived near Boston while I was growing up and we spent many Saturdays there, shopping and exploring the sights. When my daughter was a baby, I lived for several months in Cambridge.

So I know my way around Boston. I spent last July 31, a gorgeous Saturday, strolling through Boston Gardens, window shopping, and after a few miles walking in the sun, found myself  happily worn out in a Borders Book Store near Faneuil Hall.

I purchased a few books including a copy of Be Here Now by Ram Dass and a book of daily wisdom by the Dalai Lama, and sat down on a bench in the shade to await the evening.

I began to read about letting go of attachment. Buddhist philosophy is not new to me and I have owned countless copies of Be Here Now, always giving them away. I have been a student of religion, and eastern and western philosophies all my life, starting with reading the bible as a child and branching off into other religions as I progressed.

Sitting on the bench and looking up from the centered and calm teachings in the books, I met the glances of people walking by, and smiled when our gazes met. I felt everyone rushing around me, young and old, with their burdens of bags or babies, holding hands, or alone, hurrying or calmly ambling.

When one lives in a rural area like Vermont, one forgets about how many people there actually are in the world until one visits a city. Each time, it is a shock. Usually, I resist being surrounded by so many people but on this last Saturday in July, I felt connected with each of these souls; all of them certainly on their own journeys, all of them struggling in their own ways. The afternoon sun was bright and brilliant; it was late afternoon. Peoples’ clothing was rumpled from a long hot day outside, and yet, I felt that these were my people and I was one of them.

I continued to read. Again and again my eyes kept finding passages on attachment. If only I could let go of attachment, I read, then I could reach enlightenment. If I could let go of attachment to my own life, then I could work on feeling compassion for others. If I continued to have attachment to my life, then it would only bring me suffering.

Well, I ‘m not ready for enlightenment, I thought, because I cannot let go of my attachment to my life. My attachment to my  my own true love, my soul mate,  come back into my life  a couple of years before. My life was finally the way I wanted it and there was no way that I was letting go.

When I got home from Boston late that night, I planned to  spend Sunday packing for a couple weeks’ absence and then on Monday morning, travel by bus and train to see my love. We would spend an entire six days together during which we would finish his website,  sell  his art at a sidewalk sale and, best of all, our daughter would join us towards the end of the week. He had promised to take me on a sunset cruise on a schooner which was to be an expensive and very special treat which he had spoken to me about all summer.

Every day was a joy, to have him in my life again, and to talk to him every day, even if we lived apart. I could only see myself moving closer to him, in my heart, spending more time together,and then, at when my children had all graduated from high school, I would sell my house and live with him in our seaside town, and then grow old together.

It was all ordained, and I believed in this as much as I believed that every morning when I woke up, the sun would be in the sky.

Well it didn’t work out that way at all. The week I spent with him in August was far from idyllic; we never went on the schooner ride. He acted strangely at times, aloof or secretive, and now I know why. We were too busy finishing up the website to spend any time outside, we never peeped at the meteor shower, or used the telescope to look at stars.

As it turned out, I guess he didn’t even want me there at all, and I was taking a week of vacation time and taking buses and trains to see him for no reason at all. I guess he didn’t even care about the website or the sidewalk sale. In retrospect it feels like he spent the whole week nervous and being strange and I wonder if either his other girlfriend was mad at him because I was at his house for a whole week or he was trying to hide that fact from her.

So instead of that first week of August being a glorious chapter in the journey of our lives reunited, it was actually the second to last time that I would ever visit him. Ever. So many visits blurring together over that two and a half-year period. I had no idea they would be finite. I had no idea that it was all about to end.

My attachment to him and my loss of him and of our life together, both present and future, has brought me deep suffering over the past few months.

So now here I am crawling out of the end of one of the longest, coldest winters I can remember,  and feeling that since I am nowhere near enlightenment, then why must I have to part with attachment now, in such a cruel way?

Is this the lesson I must learn in my life; that I can’t have the things that others have? I can’t have the love of my life? Where is this ordained?

But this is all self-pity, and self-pity is the devil.



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