I’m familair with melancholy, being sentimental is my second nature. Darkness is a friend of mine, I only wish he didn’t visit me that much. A lot of my sadness, I learned, comes from attachment. Not that much attachment to a person or a physical thing, but attachment to time, to moments. I want to hold on, keep it close and not let the moment slip. But everytime it happens, again and again. And yet this is the perfect example of the limited nature of the human being. One of the ‘few’ things we have no control over. And we hate it, don’t we. We all wish we would be able to stop time, play it back, reverse, skip or repeat it, but we’re powerless here.
But here’s the strange thing: I’m attached to past moments, yet I have no idea how to enjoy the present moment. It seems like all present moments earn their value with the passing of time. Isn’t that odd? So I’m attached to past moments, I didn’t even know how to enjoy in the first place. The real attachment is maybe to something that never quite existed. Something I made up in my mind and romanticized through time. A false memory constructed, decorated with all kinds of positive feelings. I think the problem is that I try too hard. I try too hard to enjoy the present moment, to create a kind of happiness. Because when I really think about it, in moments I’m genuinely happy, I’m not worrying about whether I am happy ‘right now’ or not. I don’t seem to think about anything. Maybe because then I’m more focused on my senses than on my mind, I suppose. The state I’m in is a ‘flow’, where I lose track of time. I know it sounds really abstract and vague, but I have a hard time explaining the feeling I’m referring to.
Attachment in itself is a weird thing, which happens unconsciously. Once I got conscious of the way I deeply attached to everyone and everything, I realized this was the source of my suffering and now I’m learning to detach. The problem with attachment is, is that everything you are attached to, a person/physical thing/moment/ego, is temporal, impermanent and fleeting. Therefor you will always carry with you the fear of losing it, which causes anxiety and stress. Everything in life is fleeting, but really this should not be seen as a bad thing, but as a beautiful one. It’s what makes everything precious. But this realization still sounds sad.
Though, I’ve come pretty far accepting life as it really is, but I still got a long way to go. As I admitted, I’m still attached to (past) moments. But I’m also really attached to my ego, which refers to my identity, my personality. I do care a lot about the way I look and my ‘image’ as a singer-songwriter, but also of me as a person. The little world I created for and around myself, is one I really love, but also really fear losing. So as long as I stay attached to this ‘ego’, I will suffer because I’m holding on to something that is temporal and impermanent. I also used to be really attached to other people, but through practice, self-love and spending a lot of time on my own, I love the people around me deeply, but I don’t attach to them anymore. Because it only brought me pain when I did. I also don’t add that much value anymore to material things. Once I needed a lot of physical things to feel happy, but not anymore.
Ever since I began to study Buddhism I realized that suffering and this kind of attachment are always linked to eachother, there is only a fine line between the two. You can find it in the so-called Four Noble Truths, which are the basics of the Buddhist philosophy and will hopefully clarify the text I’ve just written.
1. The first truth is The Truth Of Suffering (dukkha). This is the realization that life is full of suffering, and denying that it is, will only make the suffering worse. This is an observation of life itself, which has to be accepted and seen. But this dukkha is not necessarily a bad thing, it just refers to the fact that everything is temporary or conditional; that everything will end, including the human body and the ego.
2. The second noble truth is the Truth Of The Cause Is Suffering (samudaya). Suffering is caused by a greed or desire, by craving for any kind. As humans, we constantly search for happiness in the external world. We expect to find happiness outside and not in our internal world, which includes our soul, mind or spirit. The problem with this external search, is that we never feel satisfied and never find what we are looking for. The search and the craving will go on forever, because these external things can not really fully satisfy us. There’s always a craving for more, for better, bigger and greater. This attachment to desire causes us pain. We attach to physical things, but also to opinions and ideas about ourselves, our identity, and the world around us. In Buddhism, the aim is to not divide the universe in ‘me’ against everything else, but to be in the world without creating mental barriers between ourselves and the ‘rest of the world’, because of the believe that all is one. (I’ll discuss this second truth in a future post).
3. The third noble truth is The Truth Of The End Of Suffering (nirhodha). This third observation provides us with a cure for suffering. We should stop attaching, clinging, or holding on tightly to something or someone. This only happens when we see the ‘truth’. Attaching to all that is impermanent will make us feel good for some time, but this moment of happiness won’t last long. This clinging to mortal, temporary, fleeting entities causes pain and once we realize this and we’re willing to accept this fact, it’ll be clear and easier to just surrender. Slowly the craving will disappear and through practice, this state of nirvana, enlightenment, will make its enterance.
4. The fourth and last noble truth is The Truth Of The Path that will free us from suffering. This is called The Eightfold Path and is the practice we can follow through life to attain this state of nirvana. The path includes practices regarding right view, right speech, right livelihood, right mindfulness, etc.
Studying these ‘truths’ really helped me to become more conscious of my attachments and my suffering. Now I’m slowly working on detaching from everything and find happiness within, separate from time, space, people or things.
Day by day, step by step…
O’Brien, Barbara. The Four Noble Truths Of Buddhism. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-four-noble-truths-450095. 15-05-2018.