Avoiding attachment

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All life, and all attraction, fades in the end.  Better, perhaps, to love equally, than to cling to attractive things.  Photo by Amy Luo on Unsplash

The Buddhist idea of attachment refers to an apparent delusion in our minds.  It refers to the fact that our thinking gets distorted by our unfair prejudice towards some people, and away from others.

ATTRACTION

Some people we are attracted to.  We give them preferential treatment in our minds.  We think about them more.  We tend to offer them more of our time and resources.

Whenever we do this, we are unfairly preferring one being over another.  We are letting our prejudices overrule a more even and careful spreading of our love and efforts.

REPULSION

Some people we dislike.  We relegate them in our minds to the position of enemy.  We try to avoid loving contact with them. We tend to offer them less of our time and resources.

Whenever we do this, we are unfairly putting one being behind others.  We are letting our prejudices overrule a more equanimous giving of our love and efforts.

NEUTRALITY

Both attraction and repulsion are delusory.  The illusion is caused by time.

I can illustrate this by describing what happens to physical attraction over time.  Imagine encountering a beautiful person in their biological prime.  Then imagine encountering the same person several decades later, when they are not in their prime.  I am sure you would have a different experience in relation to attraction.  I am not saying that age necessarily affects attraction.  But I am saying that, because we are deceived by time, it often does.

In the same way, our feelings about others tend to vary depending on how they treat us personally.  We give this great importance, far more importance than it warrants.  This leads us to being deceived in the following way: someone who treats us nicely might be unkind to others; equally, someone who treats us severely might be very kind to others.  If we let our feelings be commanded by how we ourselves are treated, we will come to very personal and unfair judgements about others.

Equanimity is the word given to a state of mind which is not so influenced by such prejudices.  If we have equanimity, we remain neutrally loving.  This need not take the emotions out of life.  But it does make those emotions manageable, fairer to others, and more reasonable.

AN EXERCISE

Just for today, notice, when you meet others, whether you find it easy or difficult to be attracted to them.  Analyse, in the moment, why that might be.  Are they unusually beautiful?  Are they unusually kind to you?  Are they unusually ‘cute’ in some way?  In contrast, are they unusually ugly?  Are they unusually mean to you?  Are they disgusting to you in some way?

Try to balance your approach.  Just because time has positioned you in relation to them in a particular way, why should that make you discriminate?  All beings are worthy of your love.

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SUMMARY

The Buddhist concept of attachment refers to a mistake we make, when we unfairly decide to be attracted to some people, and repelled by others.

Attachment leads us to spend too much time and resource on people and things we find attractive.  Often we only find them attractive because they are nice to us, or in some way appeal to our sense of selfishness.

We can develop equanimity – the ability to avoid being deceived by temporary appearances.  This makes us fairer, and makes our emotions more manageable.

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