Attachment vs Connection; Unconditional Love.
A couple of weekends ago I went to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak in Toronto. What an incredibly moving and powerful day that was. His message so clear, so simple, so true. I feel truly humbled to have been a part of it. No other philosophy has spoken to me as clearly as Buddhism. I am not Buddhist. And like all of the other philosophies and religions of the world I take my truth and leave the dogma behind. Still of all of them, I've probably learned most about life from my study and practice of Buddhism.
Since that day I have spent a great deal of my time in thought about attachment. In Buddhism, it is said that it is our attachment to things that causes our suffering. Our attachment to outcome, personal belongings, our past, our bodies, anything that is outside of us. Indeed, even our attachment to the idea of self. That anytime you feel suffering you can look at what is causing it and directly trace it to an attachment to something. I do this frequently and it does give great insight. For example, is it the loss of a job that causes suffering or the attachment to what the money from that job can bring..security, things, the social part of working or indeed the entire package. Most people who have become unemployed end up better off long term in some way. It doesn't always change the emotional response but sometimes it helps make it more appropriate to the situation and it certainly has changed how I look at life. I see every job loss of my past as dumping me into opportunity. None of them has caused me any long term hardship and I certainly wouldn't be writing full time if I had stayed employed at any of them.
Inevitably though, in any discussion of attachment, someone asked the question, but what of love? Isn't it a normal human instinct to seek and find love, particularly in the form of relationships and attachment to a mate. And if so, how do we reconcile the idea on non-attachment with the idea of love itself. How can one love and not feel attachment.
So I've meditated and thought on this question taking into account changes in my own life, my loves, my past relationships and my current ones and even those yet to come. I've come to some conclusions that ring true for me.
Attachment is not what we need to be seeking. It's what we think we should look for but truly what we want, as humans with this great capacity for love, is connection. We want to find people to share our true selves with who don't run screaming once they hear our darkest thoughts, our past mistakes and our future foibles. We want people who accept us truly as the incredible spirit we are, not as the fallible human we exist as. We want to be judged fairly by our soul, not our behaviour.
This is what we want. What we first need to do is connect to ourselves in this way, forgiving ourselves our faults and striving always to be authentic to the soul you have to offer to the one you connect to.
The Dalai Lama said "Always see the human inside, not their actions." While I'm not perfect, I do look for the spirit inside and try to connect with that rather than attach myself to how a person should behave or has behaved in the past. This has served me well. For example, I know no negative people, I know no bad or evil people. I see good people everywhere. I see misguided choices from places and perspectives I cannot truly understand but accept as true for the person. Am I truly just attracting wonderful people or is it I just don't see the bad others see anymore. I don't know, all I know is that I love human beings and believe all of them are truly, at heart, good.
It all sounds wonderful but what does this look like in real life in a love relationship? Here are a few very odd and random questions. In your relationship or those you are fostering, are you focused on getting your love to propose or are you focused on taking care of him or her? Are you taking care of him or her in order to get him to marry you or love you or are you doing it because you love them and value all humans as worthy of love? Are you being yourself with them or are you afraid of showing your depths? Are you angry at your spouse because they didn't pick up their socks or are you smiling because yet again this person you love didn't pick up his socks? Are you attached more to the idea of his tidiness than connecting to his heart? Are you attached to behaviour or are you seeking a true heart to heart connection that transcends all the little attachments to what everyone tells you a relationship should look like?
Attachment to the idea of what a love relationship should be like is probably why they so often fail. What should always be the goal of both persons is to keep the connection. Allowing a person to his own mistakes, giving them the freedom to come and go and trusting your ability to deal with it if they choose the later is the most important aspects of non attachment you can practice. Meanwhile keeping a healthy dose of the same connection to your own soul so that you know when behaviour is at the extreme and unhealthy end of the spectrum. You can love a person and not want to live with their destructive behaviour. You can love a person and not want them as part of your life. This is perfectly fine and in fact, vital.
Unconditional love doesn't mean you sacrifice or endanger your well being for someone who isn't capable of returning that love, it means loving them from wherever the safest place for you is. Because you need to have unconditional love for yourself as well. Perhaps you are connected with one whose lifestyle isn't something you can live with. Or they are violent or controlling or addicted to something. Are you attached to the idea that you must live in the same home with the person you love? Have them actively in your life. Perhaps you can be happy with an alternative arrangement and maintain connection more easily without the trappings of domesticity getting in the way.
Without that connection it is still possible to be happy in an exclusive love relationship with someone. Yes, you will be able to get along but don't be surprised if eventually the desire for that connection becomes intense. It is often like a hunger and almost as strong as the urge for food. You may not die without it but you feel you can't fully live. Ideally you reconnect. But that takes two and if you don't it may be time to decide how important to your life this connection is. For me it's vital.
You can fill the need for it with friends and family and work and fun but still the desire to connect with that special person who gets you on every level is intense. It is certainly possible to live a completely fulfilled life without it. I've known many happy single people who aren't looking for it. That's not what I'm saying.
What I'm saying is, if this is who you are, and this connection is important to you, beware not to drive it away with attachment to the trappings that society sets down as the norm. So when it does show up embrace it but don't attach to it. Let it evolve and let it be what it is. Enjoy its magic and revel in it. Don't make demands on it and it will evolve always into what it's supposed to be for exactly as long as it's supposed to. I think that this applies to every other relationship in your life. To your children, your parents, your friends without the burden of expectation. It changes how you deal with people and how they relate to you and for the better.
Detach and connect. Give unconditional love. To all humanity and to yourself. And the love and connection you are looking for will find you. The first book I read by the Dalai Lama was called "The Good Heart". I've often said the title of the book was enough. All we need is to look for the good heart in people and we'll be on the good path. If you didn't read the poem I wrote recently called That Heart, read it here. Absolutely nothing about picking up socks in it, I promise.