This continues from these articles on overcoming loneliness.
Attachment to anything seems to aggravate our sense of isolation. Someone told me that they feel especially lonely when they’re looking for someone to share their samsaric enjoyments with, and not lonely while they’re enjoying Dharma. “I wish they were holding my hand in this movie” is a more likely craving than “I wish they were sitting next to me generating compassion and renunciation.” When I am meditating, for example, I never feel as if I am all on my ownsome, even if it may look like that from the outside.
The other day I was strolling in Denver Botanical Gardens, which just happens to be close to where I am living, very lucky me – and the flowers were breaking through after the winter splashing gorgeous color everywhere.* I was on my own, as is often the case, and I was loving being in the moment; but then I found myself wanting to show these exquisite flowers to my man friend and my parents all the way over in England, as if that would mean that they were there with me too. So I whipped out my handy Smartphone camera to endeavor to capture a paltry fraction of what was going on, and was about to send the photos over via Viber, when the following thought occurred: “This is so precarious and distracting – they are seven hours ahead, they are probably not online, plus the Martian for some reason cannot see the (to me, blindingly obvious) point of texting back and forth all day long, and my dear mother, smart as she is, is not the world’s most technically able individual and will likely send me back a blank email. This could end up being frustrating, and even exacerbate my sense of being alone!”
(As an aside, what about the wonders of modern technology! The distractions of modern technology!? The feeling that Smartphone gives us of being so close and yet paradoxically so far!?)
So, instead, I decided to simply imagine that they were here with me already, part of my heart-mind, seeing all this; and imagined their delight. There is no real separation in time or space. You cannot find, or point to, time or space anywhere existing from their own side. Time is simply a characteristic of impermanent objects — not existing over and above them, or around them, or even before and after them! Space and distance, however seemingly vast, are likewise imputed, appearances to mind, as in a dream. The mind can be at the moon in an instant, as Geshe Kelsang explains in How to Understand the Mind. Buddhas are everywhere and with everyone all the time; and we can be too just by putting our minds there.
Contemplating this, I found myself offering up all these gardens, plus much more, to the kind holy beings who have taught me this, who also abide in my heart and pervade space and time; as well as to the lovable strangers passing me on the path. This took away any hint of the loneliness of trying to enjoy myself “on my own”; and in fact the gardens no longer felt like deceptive samsaric pleasures held by my self-grasping ignorance to exist “out there”, at a remove.
Instead, I felt very blissful, which is the opposite of attachment, I find. Attachment is like a black hole that can never be satiated whatever you throw at it; whereas bliss is like the sun — complete, present, all pervasive, and radiant. These kinds of experiences show me that it is possible to enjoy without attachment and clinging, and in genuine communion with others. This is good, as we are aiming at having uncontaminated pleasant feelings full-time!
Lonely as a cloud?
At this point, since I have mentioned my mother, and today indeed it is Mother’s Day, I feel like mentioning her favorite poem by the natural mystic Wordsworth, as I think she’ll find it relevant to what I am saying here:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils …
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Being in the here and the now
Talking about attachment, and about time and space, I grew up on the classic British Benson & Hedges line:
“Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet.”
The famous commercials used an excerpt from a jazz rendition of Bach’s Air on the G String. A distinguished fellow would find himself in a variety of awkward situations and remedy them by lighting a cigar and smiling. (I can’t say it worked for me — whenever I tried a puff of my dad’s cigars I just felt sick …)
The moment we externalize happiness, as we do with attachment or uncontrolled desire – whether in another person, a house, a career, a reputation, or a cigar – we have instantly distanced ourselves from it. We may think, “To be happy I need to be on a Caribbean beach with a beautiful person, sipping a pink martini,” in which case our happiness is literally miles away. Or we may think, “To be happy I need to win this promotion and be free from my money worries,” in which case we are always separated from our happiness by the gulf of time.
Truly though, happiness is here within us right now. Remove all distorted, delusional states of mind and happiness will spontaneously flood into every part of our being, day and night. This has been the true-life experience of countless people who have trained their minds.
*ps. Denver is odd. Today, May 11th, winter is back already — five inches of snow smothering those poor spring flowers. It’s lucky I took these photos 😉
Thank you for writing this wonderful series on love and attachment. I’ve recently lost a relationship due to my attachments, and this has helped me reflect on how to stop giving the key to my happiness away and search for it within myself as attachment is a black hole that no one or nothing can fill. This has given me so much hope and clarity.
Aw, I’m really glad it has helped. Hopefully we’ll all come to see how much more fulfilling it is to be in control of our own happiness.
Luna thankyou for these words. You have a wonderful gift for summarising dharma in a beautiful way. I was deeply moved xx
thankyou for that kind comment!
I feel so blessed to be learning about attachment. Attachment is EVERYWHERE!!! Even as I write this, I’m finding myself hoping that you’ll reply – another attachment!!! All of my problems come from the pain I feel when my Martian doesn’t behave the way I want him to. There is hope that I may be able to love him (and everyone) purely after all!
Attachment is a heavy mind but luckily we don’t need it, it just gets in the way. Martians can go back to Mars and it’s still ok. Or they can stick around, that’s ok too. Either way, if we are practising love and non-attachment we are happy, and if we’re not, we’re not.
I love your article! I’ve been feeling distracted lately and haven’t been doing my daily meditation/prayer practice and it’s really apparent to me. The self-grasping and attachment takes over and I remember how much more peaceful it is, living the dharma. Your statement, “When I am meditating, for example, I never feel as if I am all on my ownsome” is SO true! It helps me to remember all of Namdrol’s teachings on emptiness and mere appearance to mind and I feel instantly better! Thank you SO much for your articles! Please continue, as you are helping many! Thank you Luna! <3
Very nice to hear that this helped you 🙂 Thank you.
Get out there with a mind of giving… It’s the best place to be… LoVe…
Wow! What a great story! When I am lonely I search for the demon of self cherishing who must be appearing somewhere in my mind. If I think of the guru at my heart and the lineage of gurus in a line one after another as extensive as space all are available for me to access. They all know how the pain of our attachment is a seed for loneliness. However, if I offer one petal with a pure heart the universe might shake! I particularly liked the unpredictability of the Denver spring what a teaching! Great article thanks!
Beautiful in the moment with all that is around you 🙂 natural to want to share with our kind mother 🙂 I am lucky enough to be close enough to take my mum flowers weekly and I cherish her for the kindness that she has shown me all of my life 🙂
That is so nice!
From my window I can see the landscape covered with snow. The flowers are temporary, and so is the snow. Every moment is new.
Yes, things don’t last even for a moment.
Thank you for this. I have been missing my family back in england also. Being Mother’s Day made me sad I was not with her. Thinking about how happy I am that my parents are spending time with their grandchildren and that I am able to enjoy each moment here with my husband and mother in law is a better way to see the situation. And just relish in the joy that comes with thinking how wonderful my parents are and how happy I am that they are enjoying their lives togther. They are always in my heart,
Love allows us to be together, attachment doesn’t. Being far away in distance is sometimes a useful way to have to figure that out 🙂
(backgrounnd Air on a G String)’Happiness is a mind of uncontaminated feelings’.Thanks for sharing these beautiful thoughts.xxxx
My pleasure x
i’m not feeling attached 🙂
haha, yes, lucky you took those photos!! thanks for the inspired post! please write loads more about attachment. thanks and love <3
Will do, attachment hurts us so bad.