When setting out on the mystical path, one will undoubtedly come across the crown jewel of all spiritual teachings,
“Attachment is the root of all suffering.” -Gautama Buddha
Though, now a commonly held platitude for the quasi-enlightened, there is still some merit to this mantra.
Sure, because we are attached, we do feel some sense of suffering towards what it is that we are attached to; for whatever we attach ourselves to, we subconsciously know that one day it will all end — because life is impermanent. However, beyond our aversion towards loss and propensity towards gain, we must realize that both loss and gain are simply the nature of duality as a whole.
Everything in this world is a bi-product of duality: creation begets destruction; happiness evokes sadness; existence suggests non-existence. Thus, when one finds themselves becoming overly-attached to one end of the spectrum (happiness, let's say), the other end will inevitably pull them down as they come face-to-face with their own loss-aversion (sadness, in this case). It is this interplay between craving and aversion that creates suffering. As humans, we are naturally hardwired for pleasure — which, in turn, creates our innate desire to seek out more pleasure; the impetus for our attached-states. But is attachment really a bad thing?
Examining the mantra further, “Attachment is the root of all suffering,” can we not say that this in itself is an attachment? The more we strive for non-attachment, the harder it is for us to attain. A true paradox of mind. The more we are told not to think of the White Bear, the more the mind will naturally gravitate towards that direction.
The truth is, all life is an attachment. Regardless of if you're doing something you crave or something you are adverse to, you are attached. The simple act of doer-ship begets an attachment towards the doing. Unquestionably, without attachment, we would not be here; we would not be living; nor would we ever have any chance at living the life we want to live.
Take someone truly devoid of all attachment — would they pursue their inspiration? Why would they? They are unattached to their source. Take someone truly devoid of all attachment — would they get out of bed in the morning? Why would they? They are unattached to the world around them. Take someone truly devoid of all attachment — would they nourish the body to keep it alive? Why would they? They are unattached to even the vessel that holds their consciousness.
Exploring attachment to these extremes allows us to recognize for ourselves the importance of being attached. So, are attachments a bad thing? Of course not! We are birthed into this world by attachment. The key to suffering is not non-attachment, but perspective. Can we still be attached while accepting the duality of life; understanding that all things will someday end? Can we do, yet know that in the end all of our work will be undone? That is what it takes to flow freely in the present moment — the ability to exercise attached non-attachment.
Without attachment, Steve Jobs would have never pursued the Apple Computer. Without attachment, Albert Einstein would have never come up with the Theory Of Relativity. Without attachment, Kevin Hart would have never made us laugh. The key here is that each of them had the perspective of knowing that,
“Sure, this may not be right, this may not work out, but it’s right and works for me. Failure is only a part of the journey. Ultimately, all I can do is continue doing what it is that I love to do because pursuing what I love is what makes me come alive!”
So, accept your attachments, pursue your passions, and chase what it is that is most pleasurable in your life — because at the end of the day, perspective is what will keep your head above water.
Do what you love and attach yourself to that!