The difference between attachments and emotions
In one of Ram Dass’s lectures years ago he talked about giving an interview where he was asked “are you happy”? “yes” responded Ram Dass, “are you sad” “yes” replied Ram Dass. He was illustrating the point that most of us find difficult to grasp and that is you can experience the whole range of emotions at one point in time because you are not attached to them.
When we develop attachments we are looking for gratification from the fruits of our actions, we are focused on the outcome. When it is something we want, we feel happy and when it isn’t we feel something different and generally an emotion we don’t want so we push it away because we experience that emotion as pain.
Being attached means that we are always looking for something and in that state we never let go of our suffering as we are never satisfied with what we have, charity shops are full of peoples’ sufferings! In order to go beyond suffering we need to develop equanimity so that every experience that comes to greet us in our lives just is, it is neither good or bad, happy or sad, it just is, it is something for us to work with. The problem for us human beings, as Eckhart Tolle would state, is that we are too associated with our ‘pain bodies’ to be conscious enough of how to let go of our emotional attachments, to us we are our emotions!
When I was a little girl my mother taught me “never show your emotions in public”. That instruction was very harmful and it has taken me a lifetime to overcome this and still I find it difficult to express what I feel inside, even with my husband! My mother had experienced a lot of suffering in her life and not just because she had come through the Second World War and she was one of the most loving people I had the privilege to know. Unlike attachments, here I am talking about expressing something you feel deep inside, something that springs from your heart.
When you enter a spiritual journey, where you bring your life into the light and live as consciously as you can you feel a connectedness to all around you, every living creature, a tree, a small insect and although I am not a practicing Buddhist I am very careful when out walking or driving not to inadvertently kill anything. I am the person in the garden giving blessings to my vegetables before I pick them, or telling my plants how beautiful they are. This is not an affectation but something that springs naturally from my heart, I feel grateful for what my garden brings me. Just so when I find a poor animal that has been run over in the road or I read a moving passage in a book, tears spring spontaneously into my eyes as I feel the suffering of that life in my heart. This emotion is not due to any attachment but from my innate sense of connectedness to everything around me. I am pleased to let my emotions flow like this because unlike my mother I am now able to express my emotions freely. Like Ram Dass I feel all of my emotions at anyone point in time and alas, unlike Ram Dass I still have some way to go before giving up my attachments but I am working on it.