Thursday, July 15, 2010

Attachment to What Is, or Not?

A gust of wind thrashed in the upper branches of the tree across the street from my 4th floor window. I watched the dance of the leaves, and the light, the grace and vigor of the branch in its responses to the moving air. What do I see? Is it the world as it is in this moment, or is it a change from what I expected to see, or from what I saw a moment ago? In other words, is this moving, thrashing branch being measured against my idea of the tree holding still? Could it be that my idea of "tree" creates my concept of "tree in the wind?" If I simply see the tree, whether stationary or in motion, I can experience this moment without assigning meaning, without defining any dualistic value. The moment is reactive to conditions, the conditions are in the moment.

What is change without attachment to what was, or the measurement of what is against something that might have been or might yet be? Is that at the core of my human understandings or might I be masking something else by these attachments?

Maybe letting go of those meanings, that identification with the object as the defined object, would shake my view of the world. Perhaps the inner core of my being does not require that a tree hold steady as a shape against the sky or produce firewood or shade or even oxygen. It is shocking to think that every cell has an atomic structure, smaller than the eye can see and difficult for the mind to imagine without physical models in exaggeratedly large sizes. Yet they exist in the same way that planets do, now that we have created an exaggeration of our own vision in the form of powerful telescopes. Aren't these fundamentally acts of imagination?

I'm sensing that what we see and the meanings we give are really still in the realm of myth and story. The story changes as the teller accommodates new possibilities, and the exploration continues of the illusions around us, defining and explaining to make it easier to function here, or understand what we think. It is natural human behavior to attach to what we think and what we think we know. Isn't much of anger, disappointment, violence and harm coming from exactly this attachment? How much energy is spent trying to convince others that one opinion is right and another wrong, or one action is just and another hateful, or one concept is correct and another incorrect, one god is true and another false.

I attach so much of my own being to these details of memory, training, and meaning. In my yoga and meditation there are moments when there is a sense of a conscious witness beyond these attachments, watching the person I am go through these patterns of attachment. This awareness is detached from the assigned meanings, values, shapes and histories. There is much compassion in the observation, a sense of kindness and lack of judgment in this way of knowing about being myself. That in itself is deeply comforting, enabling, spacious.

Functioning in the world is not a detached condition! My feelings soar and plummet, my thoughts zoom around, my head fills with details and observations, critiques and comparisons. Even my body continually sends a variety of messages, never to be exactly as I might expect or assume it to be. Even without really detaching, I can watch this happening and actually function with more equanimity while the whirlwind whirls. That tree branch is still thrashing out there, yet has not changed the tree. Even if the limb falls, the idea of tree can remain or the idea of tree can include limb-on-the-sidewalk. This is a state of mind, rather than one of the tree itself. My attachment to meanings and definitions is not required for that tree to continue in its relationships to the conditions around it, the wind and the sidewalk, to photosynthesis and the air I breathe.

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