Thursday, April 29, 2010

Freedom of Non-attachment

Traveling recently, I was struck by how little it takes to release attachment or to enmesh myself with those deep swirling currents. In some ways it matters very little what I do, what I eat, what happens in any one moment -- the impact of any of this is created by the meanings (feelings, significances) attached by my mind. In and of themselves, the moments do not have a hierarchy or embedded significance. One moment offers the same freedom as the next, or the last. A phone call changes the emotions and interactions of the moment, a gust of wind changes the experience of the moment, a cool sip of water changes the sensations of the moment and the mind can play with meanings in every case.

Looking out of my hotel window down to the sidewalk below, I watched pedestrians and vehicles coming and going every which way. From above, each body was a head with moving parts to carry it -- the mind in every person filling and emptying continuously in response to the wind, the traffic lights, the weight of their bags, the morning experiences or projections ... whatever the mind's content. I could not even begin to pretend to know what was going on inside but could clearly see the forms moving in space. My yoga teaching has given me a physical awareness of balance and imbalance -- watching the gaits, feeling the movement. There need not be a story attached unless my interest is in making that story to help control or understand, to predict or participate.

Each moment is a bit like visiting an art exhibition, where I place myself in front of a piece of art and observe it at the same time as I observe my reactive nature in relation to it. I can choose to read the narrative on the wall beside the piece or the introductory explanations as I enter the room; I can choose the sequence in which I experience the exhibit or choose to follow the map provided by the creator of the exhibition. Sometimes I might react to the date of a work, or the colors in it, or my feelings evoked by the image I perceive. My reaction might change if I have "information" about the artist or the history of this art form. It seems the same is true for the moments in my day.

Traveling in a new place made it easier for me to notice that the food tasted particularly yummy, or greasy, or bland as I was seeking out the nature of experience in a new place; and in all those circumstances I got up from the table no longer feeling hungry. Having only so many days in a place, perhaps helped me give more attention to whether the day was misty or sunny or rainy or cold since I knew that this was going to be my experience of that place; and each moment filled with sights, fragrances, tastes, sounds, textures, ideas, interactions, choices, experiences.

I felt a strong positive sense of my own unimportance in these days of travel. It was just fine to walk out and be one of those moving bodies seen from a 6th floor window, walking along with my passing and changeable goals, in rhythm with the moment. Walking to work in my own neighborhood, it was most interesting how this same astonishing joy of being translated once I returned to Brooklyn.

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