Attachment: Hold It Lightly

posted Mar 25, 2012, 10:31 AM by James Stoertz   [ updated Jun 10, 2012, 7:23 AM by James Stoertz ]

Dressed elegantly, middle-aged Roslyn looked younger than her years.  She came to my workshop on “Growing in the Spiritual Life" along with her children--a nineteen-year-old daughter who had an Indian guru and a seventeen-year-old son who practiced Zen meditation.  When Roslyn's husband died a year ago, her children taught her to meditate.  Since then she experienced an inner quietude and a calm joy that she had not known before.  She now wanted to "go deeper,” but her children told her that attachments held her back.

"I have many fine artifacts in my home, and I love them all," Roslyn said. "My children tell me that I must get rid of them if I want to make spiritual progress.  But I can't do it, and frankly, I see no harm in keeping them.  Am I wrong, or are they wrong?"

Darshani:  All traditions speak of the proverbial bird that cannot fly because its wings are tied to a post.  Sages say that a wing is held down as much by a thin silk thread as it is by a heavy rope. So we must give up attachments if we are to progress.   What should go is the attachment to objects, not necessarily the objects themselves.  How would getting rid of your artifacts benefit you now?  You would still carry them in your mind. Positive or negative attachments held in our minds keep us back just as surely as the things themselves.

A tale from the East makes an interesting point about this. Two celibate monks were walking along a forest path. One was old and one was young.  When they reached a stream they removed their sandals to cross it barefoot.  Just then, they saw a beautiful woman.  She was crying because the open sores on her feet prevented her from walking barefoot.  Immediately, the older monk bent down, lifted her up in his arms, and carried her across the stream.  The younger monk followed in astonishment.  After the older one let the woman down on the other side of the stream, the two monks walked a long way in silence.  Three hours later, the younger monk could stand it no longer.

"What you did was shocking!" he blurted out.  The older monk looked surprised.  "What are you talking about?" he asked.  "You carried that beautiful woman in your arms.  And you know, Brother, we are celibates!"

The older monk burst out laughing.  "Imagine!" he said.   "The moment I put the woman down, I completely forgot about her.  But you have been carrying her with you for three whole hours!  Which one of us has the attachment?"

Keep your artifacts but learn to hold them lightly by deepening your meditation on Truth.  If you practice regularly, and if you already feel a constant quiet joy, then soon you may experience waves of bliss that will make the joys of the world seem like toys.  Once the bliss of the Supreme touches you, your equilibrium will not be shaken by the presence or absence of anything in the world.  Then life's greatest lesson will govern your life: "Hold it lightly!"

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