How to Take the Ache out of Attachment
Based on exaggeration of the positive qualities of a person, object, idea, attachment is an attitude (a habit of mind) that clings to an object as the source of happiness: “If I only had this….boy, would things be great!” Reflect on:
1. What things, people, places, ideas, or “personal identities” are you attached to? Make specific examples. Do you see yourself as unlovable or as a person who can’t change unhealthy habits, or as a person who doesn’t exercise? “Oh, this is just who I am.”
2. How does that person or thing (friends, a job, house, car, computer or a certain reputation or identity) appear to you? Does it really have all the qualities you perceive and attribute to it?
3. Do you develop unreal expectations of the person or thing, thinking that it will always be there, will continuously make you happy?
4. How does your attachment make you act? For example, do you disregard your ethical standards to get what you’re attached to? Do you get into dysfunctional relationships? Do you become manipulative or aggressive?
Conclusion: See attachment not as your friend bringing you happiness, but as a thief destroying your peace of mind. Recognizing the disadvantages of attachment helps to let go of it. Look at the restless, craving/clinging mind and how it creates misery for you.
How to Transform Attachment
Thinking of the object of your attachment, apply an antidote (like a medicine to transform it) to attachment. Each of the four points below is a separate antidote. You can use an example from your life for each point.
1. If you possess this thing, person, etc. or if you get your way, will it bring lasting happiness and satisfaction? What new problems could arise? Think about the new career, house or boat. How about the new computer whose hard drive crashes or you have to make expensive payments. Does it or any external person or thing have the ability to bring you lasting happiness?
2. If you separate from this, what is the worst thing that could happen? Is that likely to happen? What resources—internal and in the community—can help you deal with the situation?
3. Look back at the thing, person, etc. that you are now separated from and rejoice at the time you had together. Go into the future with optimism.
4. Imagine giving the thing or person to someone else who receives it with joy. With a joyful mind, imagine offering the thing or person to your spiritual guide—as in Jesus, God or Buddha.
Conclusion: Feel balanced and free to enjoy all things in life without clinging—because you have insight about everything’s limitations.
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