Updated: Feb 10, 2019
Over the last years we have got to the point where our attachment to such a multitude of items and ideas has reached what I believe to be a level creating deep disconnect with the core, fundamental self (and with nature). We know we feel lost but may not consciously realise that we are searching or what it is we seek.
I am Ben, I write a blog, I drive a van, I am vegan, I like to read, I am a million external and internal ideas, connections, habits and hobbies. These aspects are seen as the fundamental me, but to therefore remain me I must maintain the existence of the majority of these externals, leading to a version of me that is fragmented into a long series of parts that make me think that this is who I am. This feeling takes away from the awareness of the true self, leading to a feeling of guilt and loss if and when any one of these fragments dies, is damaged or disappears (If I stop reading books, a part of Ben no longer exists equating to the feeling of a lesser version of me). This feeling is both inevitable and perpetual and leads to fear of loss and a continual hum of stress at the possibility of the collapse of these fragments of what we call the self, so I cling to each of these ‘parts of me’. No one likes a clinger.
However, even if I was to write a list of 10,000 fragments of me, I could remove ALL of them from my life and although I would look different, spend my time in new ways and have different knowledge, the me that is the core version- the fundamental self- remains hidden beneath these new attachments. Ben the name may not remain as an attachment to myself but even in changing my name I would not be seen to have disappeared, Ben is now Elizabeth but the self-endures at the most essential state of being, as the self is not fragments that we develop over time, our true state is a lasting existence that can only become more pure in becoming less fragmented. It is therefore vital that we begin to detach from the fragmented definition of the self and initiate the investigation into the core state that is the true self, the self that is unfragmentable.
Do not panic and be overly extreme, non-attachment does not mean having no deep relationships or no possessions, no hobbies and no style; quite the opposite. In being fully present and non-attached (therefore non-fragmented) we can learn to appreciate and enjoy these aspects of life to the greatest degree. In releasing the clinging to a relationship or possession we become able to view it for what it truly is- to objectively understand our connections (many people understand non-attachment to mean no connection, but this is far too literal interpretation of the vocabulary) and therefore love with an honest fullness separated from an ego based grip that will only crush what you hold so dearly. Practicing non-attachment and understanding it deeply will allow you to adoringly cradle what you love (be it a partner of a laptop) rather than squeeze it to death. Alan Watts told the story of the little girl who loved her pet rabbit so much that she clung to it so tightly that she squeezed it to death. Clinging leads to sadness.
Through practicing non-attachment, the inevitable impermanence of all life can flow with you, so you do not waste time desperately and unnecessarily clinging, but instead you simply love with moment to moment presence reaching a depth impossible while blindly attached.
So, what is the first step to start relinquishing these bonds? Perhaps the easiest is to begin to simplify in material possessions. This can start with a lovely spring clean of the clutter in your home- it will feel like you are clearing your mind as the weight and relinquishing of these attachments’ lifts from your shoulders. Give some unused possessions to your favourite charity shop, get interested in the Minimalist movement, start your journey towards a lighter footprint on the planet and a lighter feeling in your body, heart and mind.
One of the most important parts of this is not to rush out and replace items you got rid of- not to create brand new attachments to replace old ones. The idea is to slowly work towards the bare minimum number of distractions to enable the quiet that is required to begin true inner understanding- this will not only clear away these dark clouds that are the fragments of our false self but will also have a huge, beautiful, positive impact on our broken economic system and planet- I believe in participation in the positive via non-participation in the negative (check out ‘The Story of Stuff’ on Youtube).
Delving into the quiet that sits within us all involves the silencing of our incessant distractions, many of which come from clutter in the form of unnecessary possessions and thoughts. This silence allows the clarity to more easily recognise what reality consists of, allowing you to connect with what is real instead of being sucked in to fictional dramas, illusions and desires. Many fictional tales told by society are so heavily engrained that it is almost impossible to recognise reality from fantasy, but the first step is to recognise these stories for what they truly are as it allows you to take a step back and view them more subjectively, releasing yourself from their grasp. You do not have to become an aesthetic or a cave dwelling recluse (although it’s a lovely option) to transcend these attachments, life can continue as you wish but in the simple act of recognising that many of our attachments do not even exist in an objective reality, life takes on elements of clarity and even humour that we may have not noticed before.
Consider the difference between wearing yoga pants and doing yoga- the first is the state we are often stuck in, the external show of our desired, displayed selves. The second state is reality, it is far more difficult to do, it involves true effort and a lifetime of study, but the feeling that can be attained transcends ego and becomes a true you, a part of your deepest self. A fun way to visualise who you truly are is to consider (or find a way to really discover) what you would be doing in a given situation if noone else would ever know. It is hard to do but quite a potent thought experiment.
An experiment into viewing your truest self has many layers and is a journey that can be incredibly difficult, given that it effectively involves battling the daily external temptations that are designed to distract and are necessary for a consumer society to function. However, the benefits are immeasurable and will open space to enable the search for your true self to consciously commence. The planet desperately needs us to live in a lighter way so it is imperative that we change the narrative of our consumer society and begin to look elsewhere- perhaps into reality- to find what it means to be human, to find our purpose of being alive, to find our happy selves that exist just hidden from view on the other side of that fancy car and tasty hamburger. These temporary spikes of ego-tickled joy do not bring any satisfaction to one who is happy deep inside or to one who knows the wreckage they bring to our stunning world. True joy doesn’t carry conscious or subconscious guilt, it is quiet and humble, but it is real.