As the seasons shift, I often get a similar feeling of change bubbling up within. For me, Autumn is an invitation to let go; consciously releasing what’s no longer serving us and moving into a more self-supportive season.
In this series I share 3 different blogs on what may be arising for us during this time and how to move through it with more ease, awareness and practical tools.
1.The Root of All Suffering
This week, I want to talk about the biggest cause of so much of our suffering and that is: Attachment.
In Buddhism it is said that attachment is the root of all suffering. With my focus being on Letting Go at the moment, I’ve been exploring the concept and practice of it and this returned to mind. If attaching and holding on to things creates so much suffering, then surely there’s even more reason to let go. But like any change we wish to make, I find it helpful to heighten awareness and understanding of what we’re working with so we can move past it with much more ease.
So let’s look at how attachment shows up in our lives and creates pain:
As humans, we are meaning-making machines. We love to make sense of the world around us and so we attach meanings to everything. But we all have different meanings and perspectives which reveals that ultimately everything is fundamentally neutral. A chair to one person could just be a chair, but someone else could have inherited it from a loved one and it means a lot to them so it’s more than just a chair, to someone who’s been standing all day it could be a saving grace, to someone who’s been sitting all day it could be a literal pain in the ass. The chair itself remains unchanged, but the responses to it and perceptions of it are very individual.
When we take away the meanings, we let things just be as they are.
This is helpful to realise and implement in our lives because meanings create emotion in us. What we make something mean directly impacts how we feel about it. But if we release the meaning, we release the potential emotion and we return to neutrality. If you want to reduce the suffering in your life, check in with what you’re making things mean. Could you let some of those meanings go?
For example – if someone doesn’t reply to your text and you make it mean that they don’t like you or you’re annoying them etc. Could you let go of the meaning you’ve attached to it? Could it simply be that they didn’t reply and that’s it, end of story? The more we practice this, the more peace we create for ourselves. When we get caught up in meanings and stories, we are disconnected from what’s actually real and tangible – which is simply the observation of things as they are.
Our identity is our self concept, it is who we believe ourselves to be. But our identity is not fixed, it’s flexible. We are always changing. The beliefs we have about ourselves could be holding us back if they’re in alignment with who we truly are. We could be very attached to the view of ourselves as not being good enough or not being likeable or being quiet or being a people-pleaser – how could they be affecting our lives?
We could be attached to the identity that we’ve created to try to fit in or the one that was created by everyone around us but we never really consciously chose. We could be attached to the identity of being someone who has something wrong with them. We could be attached to a view of ourselves that is simply no longer accurate or helpful.
It can take us some time to catch up when we change, especially if we’ve been so used to seeing ourselves a certain way. But it’s important to be conscious of what identity we are attached to and whether or not that’s serving us. We can upgrade and change it in any moment, if we choose to.
So get curious – how do you see yourself? Are you open to dropping some old perceptions of yourself?
What beliefs about yourself aren’t working for you anymore?
The idea of how things should or shouldn’t be creates a whole lot of suffering. This way of thinking leads us to being in opposition to reality, which is what is actually happening. When we give our energy to how things should be or shouldn’t be, we’re resisting how they are.
What ‘should’s are you attaching to in your life?
I should be further on…I should look better…I should be more sociable…I should have more money…I should know more…I should be more successful etc etc
Imagine what it would be like to let all those go. To just drop them and no longer buy into the illusion that anything should be other than what it is. Imagine the freedom, the pressure that would lift, the peace you could enjoy.
Now, ask, is there any reason to stay attached to them?
4. The Past and Future
When we hold on too tightly to anything, our hands are no longer open to what we could be receiving. We often miss the moment we’re in by ruminating on what has past or worrying about
what’s to come. There’s no harm in dreaming or reminiscing but when we get attached to the past or future, we could do with having a look at how that’s affecting us.
The thing about the past is, we cannot change it. We can’t do anything about it. If we’re still regretting or ruminating on how things were, or what happened or pains from the past, it’s like stomping muddy boots on to the clean carpet of the present moment. We have the opportunity to enjoy the freshness of the now, but instead we’re bringing in stuff from the past that dirties our experience.
The past is over. Can we let our attachment to it be too?
The future is coming and we can do a lot to influence and shape it for ourselves, but again being too rigid in our expectations can close us off to the limitless possibilities that are available. Maintaining openness and non-attachment invites in the potential for more opportunity.
Check in on your expectations of what will happen – are you open to it not happening? Is there a strong attachment to things being a certain way?
The more we can let go of the stories we place on what’s in front of us, whether that’s ourselves, our experience or people, places and things around, the more peace we will create.
Life is constantly changing and moving, it is in a consistent state of flux. The more attached we are to the familiar and all of the above, the more we’re in resistance to the natural flow of our lives.
As with anything, simply begin to become aware of this. Notice where you’re holding on, notice any rigidity, allow yourself to become curious about what could open up for you, if you simply let go.