THE ART OF NON-ATTACHMENTMaureen McCaldin
How does the ego convince us that it is real? Emotions sustain the ego because emotions feel real. Emotions come from the ‘my’ value we project onto things or people but that value is not a part of the object or person we call ‘mine’. My car has value for me but that ‘my’ value is only in my mind, it is not a part of the car. The meaning of any object or thing is simply its existence. A car is a car.
When we call something ‘mine’, we become attached to it and we identify with it. We also create attachments to our beliefs, our opinions and our ideas which the ego also identifies with. The ego becomes defensive if one of our beliefs or opinions is challenged. ‘I am right and if you do not agree with me, you are not right’. Such challenges generate emotions and the ego thrives on the energy of those emotions. Those emotions make it feel alive and so support the sense of self that it has created.
In meditation, because we are internalised, we do not get attached to anyone or anything. Instead, we can recognise that we are attaching to a concept of those things which we have created in our minds. These concepts are not who we are but our habit of identifying with them is deeply ingrained. Non-attachment means we create the concepts but remain detached and do not therefore identify with them and create emotions from them. No emotions make the ego weaker. We need to recognise that the ‘my-ness’ value which encouraged the emotions is only in our mind because it is not a part of the object or belief itself. For example, if I wanted to sell the car I could not charge extra for the ‘my-ness’ value I had given to it.
This method applies to all attachments whether objects. people, ideas or beliefs and opinions. We have the ability to create the concepts without identifying with them.
Everything in the physical world is temporary so when we put our ego sense of identity into attachments, we will inevitably feel insecure. The two fears we have are that we may lose what we are attached to or what we are attached to may simply come to an end. People have been known to experience deep depression when they retire from their work. They became attached to the sense of identity they took from their work. Ask anyone what they do and they will usually reply “I am a . . . “. The “I am” is a declaration of identity and a measure of their attachment. Very few will reply “I work as a . . .”
The ego seeks to sustain itself from this drama but because we cannot control the drama our experience in the ego identity will be full of ups and down, Some excitement when things go well, but also sorrow and insecurity when they don’t. However, we do not have to acquire anything to make us feel alive. We can let go of attachments and feel free. We do not have control over anyone else because each one is unique and has their own life to lead. But we do need to control our own faculties and not get caught up in the attachments that enhance the wrong sense of self, the ego, and move us away from our real self.
We are not the ego identity which we have created from the external influences of out culture and upbringing. The real self is the being that gives life to the body and is subtle, spiritual and unique. We cannot add anything to the real self. We don’t need anything to make us feel good. The real self sees the bigger picture beyond the drama of everyday life.
We need to meditate every day in order to re-emerge the value of the real self. Observing, watching, letting go are all included because meditation is the art of self-awareness. This self-awareness grows through the practice of meditation and contemplation.