Our attachment to “attachment” has been around since way before the sutras—there’s nothing 21st century about it. And while the objects of our attachment may have changed since the invention of Lululemon and Manduka mats, the effect on us is the same.
Take, for example, how attachment plays a role in what should be a simple afternoon at the movies with a friend.
First, there are the fifteen emails to establish that going to a matinee would be cool and we should “do that sometime.”
Then there are the emails that go back and forth over a couple of weeks, citing loads of reasons—clients and parties and grocery shopping and dentists and possible visitors to allow you NOT to make a firm plan—to keep you safe in your old attachments.
So because neither of you can now unattach from the plan to make a movie date (talk about irony!) the decision is to choose a date WAY in the future .
You both know this date will be cancelled. What the reason will be? Thinking caps are ON!! But just in case you can’t come up with one—here’s my all-time favorite:
“I cannot come because I am too weak and tired from my juice cleanse.”
So… what is the relationship between attachment and responsibility to self and society— and to friendship?
It seems like it all should still be pretty simple: if you say you’re going to do something, do it.
We seem to have come to a place in our society where we feel it’s ok to leave people waiting outside theatres, restaurants, conference rooms, and offices and then not showing up under cover of an inane text sent five minutes before the appointed meeting time.
But perhaps in a strange sort of way, this is a blessing.
We are forced to let go of our attachment to the plan.
Still, the cancellation calls up all sorts of emotions. We feel frustration, annoyance and a sense of foolishness— why were we standing there like a character in a Samuel Beckett play waiting for someone who isn’t going to show up?
And although not quite as difficult as being stood up at the altar, it’s nevertheless a form of rejection—one which can create attachment to painful, negative feelings toward the other person, and ourselves. Questions of self-worth start to surface.
Once again, the teachings of yoga to the rescue:
“Rāga (attachment or desire) is an emotional bondage to any source of pleasure, manifesting in extreme forms as an inability to let go of anything, a sort of addiction to the furniture of life rather than a celebration of the joy of life itself.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on LIfe
So the plan was to see a movie with a friend. But attaching myself to the plan left me feeling annoyed and rejected. Is there is a lesson to be learned under this marquis?
Letting go is REALLY HARD. No surprises there. But attaching self-worth to such transient things seems to be opening yourself up to a lot of disappointment and heartbreak.
If we wish to celebrate the joy of life itself, as Iyengar writes, maybe we need to just go see a movie!
Yes, letting go is a difficult practice indeed. But if the end result is freedom and happiness, it might be worth it.