The Nature of Attachment

Clearly, attachment is a biological process that is needed for survival. A leaf is attached to a branch, a petal is attached to a stamen, and a tortoise is attached to its shell. However, just as attachment is an essential part of nature, so too is the biological imperative for letting go: A hermit crab leaves a shell that is too small. A snake scurries away from its sibling’s moments after its birth. A bird freely abandons its nest once a squirrel or other animal has corrupted it. Tress let go of their leaves in the fall. Everywhere in nature we see examples of moving on and letting go. Humans, on the other hand, are challenged by this idea and struggle to leave the places, people and things to which they have grown accustomed. Like a well-worn sweater that has become a little too tight or soft leather couch that no longer supports us, we become so attached to things, especially our value systems and beliefs that we willingly screw up our lives to keep them in place. Unlike the rest of the natural world, we remain attached to the familiar, even after it no longer serves us and often after it contributes to states of dysfunction and poor health.

Where do we find the help to take on the challenge of letting go? The best answer takes us back to the Chinese understanding of autumn, of which another aspect is the change in the air. Most of us are familiar with the crispness and refreshing quality of the air at this time of the year. Autumn provides us with a welcome relief from the hot, oppressive and air-starved days of summer. In autumn, we literally stretch our lungs to fill with this air.  And whether we realize it or not, metaphorically, it is a time for inspiration.

We require inspiration to have the courage to plunge into the depths of our attachments. We require inspiration to see them for what they are. And we require inspiration to help us shake lose from the ego’s identification with and its attachment to the things which cause us pain. It takes inspiration to move forward in our lives.

 

As a final thought, I would pose the following argument: letting go does not require as much work as it may seem. In autumn, leaves fall effortlessly from the trees. Try it-let your leaves go. I think you will be pleased with what happens in the spring.

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