Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Non-attachment and Starting Over

I've been studying Buddhism for years and years and years. Although my faith lies in the basics of Judaism, Buddhism is an integral part of my daily practice.

One aspect of Buddhism that I've been working on is non-attachment. For those of you not familiar with Buddhist practice, this is basically reaching a point where we can let go of objects, personal goals or even people in our lives with a minimum of regret. More of just an acknowlegement that they were there and now they are not.

It's a lofty goal, and one I thought I was doing well in moving towards. I had given away hundreds of books, calmly swept up the remains of once precious collectibles without a thought of replacement or sadness. Lost books, pictures, mementos and other objects without a backwards glance. I walked away from a big house and moved in a small apartment. Left the relative finaincial security of a troubled marriage to go out and try to make it on my own with my daughters. I still wasn't ready to display this level of non-attachment to people, but I thought I was well on my way and quite frankly, doing amazingly well.

And then my friend's house burnt down. He lost everything. All at once. Only his children and his friends left, he now faces the daunting task of starting over at 54 years of age. With 4 children to care for. And in a instant, I realized that my achievements in non-attachment were zero.

I have been giving away what I choose to give away. Yes, I hold on to far less than I did, but the choices have been mine. And the the few things I lost or swept up in pieces...they were small, one-at-a-time losses. Nothing major. Nothing huge. Certainly not everything at once. I have thus far been spared the loss of everything.

Some people who have been through a devastating loss like my friend's have come out months or even years later feeling that it was the best thing that every happened to them. A re-birth, although they all say they did not recognize it at the time. Nor would they have appreciated anyone trying to tell them that at the time. They needed to work it out for themselves...this was a very personal cleansing.

Perhaps for some, it is a process, this non-attachment. And for others, it is a test...something they have to learn all at once as a fire or flood or hurricane strips away all they believed they owned.

All I know is that there is some order here, somehow. And that I pray my friend will find it. And that I will continue to try to learn, again from scratch, what it means to let go.

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