On many spiritual paths we are advised to relinquish attachments. Mostly on the assumption that they are holding us back from advancing into the personal freedom which accompanies inner growth. And for the most part this is good advice. The average student taking their first steps on the path retains many attachments: personal, familial and societal.
Whatever we take pride in is usually an attachment: pride in ownership, pride in achievement, pride in disciplined effort. Whatever we fear or deny is usually an attachment. Fear of the unknown, the strange, the foreign; fear of desire, of accomplishment, of success. Fear of loss, of embarrassment, of shame.
All these relationships and situations can, and often are, noted, during mindfulness meditation. One watches the thoughts of desire, fear, self doubt and congratulation, anxiety and calculation. One observes them all as they arise, accumulate and disperse. And one watches one’s reactions to see the level of attachment that exists. You praise yourself for being clever, you berate yourself for being stupid, you admire yourself for looking good, you hate yourself for looking less than perfect. You are anxious about money, desirous of status objects, by turns lustful and celibate, vain with praise, ashamed about arrogance, hungry for more.
With practice one comes to see that all these thoughts, engrained attitudes and emotional reactions to psychological states are overlays to the real you, the essential being birthed for the journey through life. At first you sense this real you observing all these states and reactions, and this observer seems to have no obvious attributes other than being bemused by all the flurry around it. Regular visits reveal a consciousness unaffected by the varied excitements of activity, a lighthouse in a storm perhaps.
The bliss inherent in this discovery can sustain the seeker for many a passing month. But as weeks and maybe years roll by, one comes to see that one’s inner bliss of non-attachment is a reflection on this plane of the nirvana spoken of in the ancient texts and teachings. Extended immersion in this reflected nirvana often leads to the beginnings of the Bodhisattva experience, whether the actual vow is taken or merely glimpsed. The Bodhisattva renounces the bliss of nirvana to help ease the passage of others towards that exalted state.
At some point the seeker realizes that dealing with the so-called common man is simplified by an existence in the attached state., so the aura of attachment is reactivated. Thus one can, with the empathy that such a move brings, deal more effectively with those around you addicted to their attachments.
There is, of course, the danger, that in pursuing this course, the seeker himself becomes reattached to the various seductive illusions that life in society provides. The risk of such glamour is ever present. Success, sociability, charisma to mention but three. But as we move along our inner journeys, we discover that such risks are worth taking. We have all used the hermit/monastic option, with varying degrees of success, to limit such risk in past lives. Now we have come down from the mountain to mix it up in the marketplace, intoxicate ourselves with various luxuries, link our brains to complex technologies, and intimately entwine with the broad spectrum of sexualities now easily available.
Yet standing within the inner light and observing as we do so is really our only task.