Buddhism professes that attachment is the main reason for our suffering.
When I reflected on this notion in regards to my own experience, I realized it’s true. However, I didn’t instantly understand the threats that attachment poses.
Like me, some people might not fully grasp why attachment is considered bad for us. Some might believe that a little attachment is always healthy. Nonetheless, when we understand the real meaning of attachment, we see that it can never be healthy. To add to that: when we truly understand the word “detachment,” we won’t be terrified of it.
I recently came across this quote from S.N. Goenka:
“Grasping at things can only yield one of two results: either the thing you are grasping at disappears, or you yourself disappear. It is only a matter of which occurs first.”
In other words, when we get attached to something (or to someone), we either lose the person (or the thing), or we lose ourselves.
When we get attached to someone, we grasp at them. We don’t necessarily grasp at the person’s physical presence, but we might grasp at an emotion they inflict on us, or we might hold on to who we become in their presence.
Holding on tightly (to whatever this person inflicts) yields pressure. We become pressured, and so does as our object of attachment. In no time, we might find ourselves struggling to keep a certain emotion in place or keep that person’s presence around. When the pressure of that expectation arises, the loss becomes inevitable. Either we lose the person, or we lose ourselves in the process.
As Goenka implies, it’s only a matter of which occurs first. Only when the loss takes place, do we understand that attachment has been the reason of our misery all along.
Despite the fact that attachment is threatening, it is necessary to experience it. We need to learn the hard way that attachment hurts, so we can learn to not relate in such an attached way.
To put it differently, when our self or the other person disappears, we learn the importance of surrender. People often misunderstand words such as surrender, let go, or detachment. The verbal declaration of these words sounds fierce, but their essence is very gentle.
To surrender simply means to realize that the more we clench our fist around something, the more we set ourselves up for a loss. Life is similar to any object upon which we apply too much force. If we apply force on a spoon with both hands, it bends. Throw a glass, and it breaks. Squeeze a balloon, and it pops. However, anything that we treat with care and gentleness tends to remain intact.
The same goes for the situations in our lives. When we surrender to what the present moment offers, we don’t relinquish it or pull ourselves out of it. We get more involved with awareness and gentleness. We experience it with the gentle reminder in the back of our heads that whatever we hold on to will escape us.
Surrender is not merely a choice—it’s the sole solution we have at hand.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Instagram @elephantjournal
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Callie Rushton
Social editor: Waylon Lewis