Tag Archive | Attachments

Changing the Rules

I decided recently to start preparing for the next stage of my life by pursuing my computer Spanish and looking for assistance in various avenues. Getting the windows done has been overly dramatic. They are installed, but I seem incapable of cleaning the upper ones. I have to get the window guy to come help me because I think one of the windows is missing a slider.  However, they are basically done, which is huge. Once the outdoors stuff is done, I will have the time to focus on more indoors-y stuff like Spanish.

One of my obstacles has been Barry clinging to me. He has been clinging hard and I can never escape this situation if all I do is watch TV with him and maintain the old lifestyle. I have been making gradual changes for probably a year, but the more I let go, the harder he clings. So now it’s getting ugly. I am changing the little things in my routine, like the morning kiss when I get my glasses off the table in the living room. I now put my glasses on the dresser before I go to bed so that, in the morning, I can start my kitchen routine without having to make a trip to the living room at all. I feel horrible and cruel. But I don’t see a lot of options. I have to make sure that Barry has nothing to cling to if I ever want to move on. I realized that his clinging to me was keeping both of us stuck. He likes where we are stuck. Well, that makes one of us.

Part of him is trying to let go. I can see it in how much he sleeps. I can feel his spirit withdrawing. That’s why I don’t get a response when I speak to him many times. He is truly “not all there.” In other words, part of him is trying to leave, but another part is hanging on desperately.

What’s hard is that part of me desperately wants to hang onto the old life, or at least the illusion of it. I want to be married to the old Barry and pretend he is still here. My needs aren’t getting met and this has caused a rush of grief in me. The problem is that my needs haven’t been met for a few years; I’m just getting honest about it now.

So I am changing the rules to fit the current reality and to prepare for the one I must eventually deal with. This is painful. I would love to explain some or any of this to Barry, but he is cognitively compromised. I am on my own to figure out how to navigate this time of my life. I thought the transition from this part of my life would have been much earlier and easier than this. This is limbo. This is bardo.

Looking for Practical Spirituality

I am in a very practical phase of my life. I need help getting done the things that must get done.

Who has helped? My parents. They have given me a car (not new, but infinitely more reliable than my lemon). And my mother, in particular, is freakishly helpful. She can do an amazing and downright bizarre variety of home-related activities. She raised us kids while my dad drove truck. She was basically a married “single mother.” She has been invaluable lately. And, as near as I can tell, she has no spiritual foundation whatsoever.

This is my life contradiction: spirituality versus practicality.

I read spiritual books, meditate, all that good stuff. And I get so frustrated. Everything I read recommends solitude, silence, and even long-term retreats. I wish I had those options. I have a sick husband and a house to sell. I do not have the option to go on retreat. Period. No discussion.

I am suffering what is called “compassion fatigue.” I’ve seen it compared to PTSD. That’s because the demands are unrelenting. I don’t get a break. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.

What is my concept of the “real world”? To me, the real world is filled with needs: food clothing, shelter, transportation, communication, etc. You don’t talk to someone who is hungry about meditation, for example.

The other, less discussed, aspect of the real world is the reality of impermanence. Humanity has a 100% mortality rate. We will all die. It is weird to talk to people who clearly believe they will last forever. Business leaders that do not create succession plans put their legacies in danger. Absolutely everything you own, when you die, will get divvied up amongst others. You are way better off giving stuff away while the control is still in your hands.

The closest thing I have found to a practical spirituality is minimalism. By being realistic as to what you can realistically use in your lifetime, you can be truly generous to others. A single adult needs almost nothing: a cup, a bowl, a spoon, a knife, a sauce pan, a skillet, a few clothes, some basic medicines, a phone, a bus pass, a roof over their head, and enough food to not starve. By knowing what is not necessary, one can give to others. Think about people like Bill Gates. Eventually he and his wife created a foundation and have given away a ton of money. After all, how many houses can one live in? How many cars can one drive? Oprah has given away a lot herself.

I try to be generous. Sometimes, I don’t have anything to give. No time. No energy. No sanity. No listening ear. Other times, I can give my friends rides to work when their cars are in the shop, protein while they are studying, that type of thing.

Giving has to be reality-based. What does the person really need right now? That means meeting them where they are, not where you think they should be. When people are traumatized, they may not respond in a way you approve of. A listening ear doesn’t pay the rent.

My parents are reality-based. They have given me real help. They don’t take basic needs and ask me if I have prayed about them. They don’t give me Precious Moments/Veggie Tales answers to excruciating questions. Sometimes, people with no religion at all are kinder and more generous than those folks that pat themselves on the back for how “holy” they are. That has been one of the more painful realizations I’ve had in the past few years.

I would love nothing more than to go on sesshin or to a retreat center. I would love to live in the silence. Solitude is a fantasy of mine. It will truly be a luxury when my life is actually about me. What a concept.

Letting Go Is Not Selective

Lately, I’ve been trying to let go of all things (such as objects, relationships, and, especially, negative feelings) not serving me. I cannot make things happen, but I can pare down to what actually works for me.

However, I have learned (the hard way, of course) that letting go is kind of like repression: if you do it to this stuff, it automatically applies to this other stuff. You cannot repress only anger and grief; love and joy also get repressed. Letting go operates in much the same way, much to my surprise.

One thing I have always believed and intuitively understood is that everything is connected. Why it never dawned on me that this would apply to letting go I do not know. It works like this: A is connected to B which is connected to C. I let go of A. OMG! Where did C go? I never meant to let go of C! I think this is why people hold on so hard. They intuitively know that if they let go of one thing, a lot of other stuff is going to be gone as well.

It reminds me of many years ago. It was the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. Barry and I were having problems. He was routinely threatening me with divorce. It was getting old. I don’t even recall what the argument was about, but I had had enough. He gave me that tired ultimatum of me giving him what he wanted or us getting divorced. I said, “Fine. I will drive us to the Eaton county courthouse and we can file together. I’m sick of this.” He sat there a few minutes and then said he didn’t really want a divorce. Duh. He wanted his way. It was pure manipulation and Cindy was done playing that game.

I had class that evening. I remember sitting in class and feeling something shift within me. I knew I had just let go of my marriage. Walking back to the parking ramp after class, I felt strangely empty and free.

Obviously, this was not the official end of our marriage. No. It was just the end of my emotional commitment to it. It has never been the same since. Don’t get me wrong. I am not filing for divorce now. In some ways (the ways that actually count emotionally), I already am divorced. I will not abandon a disabled, elderly husband. I am just saying that I have been “faking it” emotionally for decades. This is part of why I totally identify with the LGBT community. I know what it is like to pretend I feel things I don’t and don’t feel things I actually do very strongly. If I had had a shred of self-esteem back then, I would have gotten divorced and been on my own. I stayed for the financial security.

Everything has changed. I am doing everything now, including things I have no idea how to do. I have an MBA. I can support myself, given the opportunity to work for a living and not just be a caretaker.

My commitment today is to honesty, at the very least with myself. I am done playing games. I am done pretending things are better than they really are. I went to the doctor a couple weeks ago and had lost 15 pounds! How the hell did I do that? I go to Planet Fitness twice a week, but I don’t think that’s the bulk of it. I know I have been using food to repress my feelings for decades. That’s over. When I started being honest with myself, my tastes started instantly changing. I am much less hungry now. Food is simply bodily fuel. The weight has dropped off effortlessly.

Being open and honest is not socially acceptable. Period. People want to be told what they want to hear. They want to be told they are good people without making the actual sacrifices that would validate such a claim. Not telling people what they want to hear is the unpardonable sin. Giving full vent to one’s anger is simply the end of various relationships. People tell me not to “burn bridges.” I scoff. When I walk across a bridge and fall through, dismantling the bridge becomes common sense. There is no sense pretending that a bridge is structurally sound while knowing full well that its weakness has resulted in real injury. Setting it on fire may not be necessary (but it can be highly satisfying), but regarding it with respect and reverence is just plain stupid. Pretending that bridges are real (while their existence is mental and not objective) only wastes precious time that could be spent building truly structurally sound bridges. Sometimes, the old needs to be removed to make room for something that works.

People don’t like my anger. Oh well. Not. My. Problem.

My hope is that my life continues to improve, even though I do not possess the resources I once assumed falsely I did. Knowing what resources I do and do not have gives me a reality-based foundation to build the rest of my life upon.

When I let go of my marriage, that was not my intent. It was not conscious. I did not go to class thinking, “I’m going to let go of my emotional commitment to my marriage forever right now.” It just happened. The letting go process is universal. You cannot be selective. You don’t know what will be released in addition to the thing you want to release. When you open your hand, everything falls out. This is why I’ve been holding on. Some part of my intuitively knew that if I started the process, I would not be in complete control of where it went. I would be transformed and I may or may not be thrilled with what I am transformed into.

Clarity, Clarity

Just to establish a baseline of my health before I leave Michigan, I got a mammogram two days ago. Yesterday morning, bright and early (before 9 am), the diagnostic center calls me to set up a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound. I set them up for about 2 or 3 weeks from now. These appointments have to fit in with everything else I am handling.

I’ve been wanting to be out of this never-ending position of taking care of the two of us for a long time. I may have my way out now. Who knows? It may be nothing.

I am now looking at my life and what is (and is not) worth fighting for. I am absolutely physically and emotionally exhausted. Am I willing to fight so I can continue functioning for two? Uh…no. I am going to continue paring down the possessions and fixing the house. Regardless of who lives (or not), doing these things will make things easier for the survivor down the road.

Also, I can start reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead for myself (and not just in relation to Barry) and start preparing myself accordingly.

I don’t know what comes next, but I feel clear as to what I am (un)willing to invest my time and energy in. Clarity is a precious thing.

Thank You, I Think

People have expressed admiration to me lately for my getting rid of things. “Oh, I need to get rid of more stuff.” “I need to get more organized like you.” That kind of thing. Their compliments have struck me oddly and I just figured out why: they are congratulating me on side-effects of what I am doing, which is preparing for the next phase of my life.

Imagine congratulating an Olympic athlete on the musculature of his thighs or a competitive pianist on the dexterity of their fingers. What is the proper response? “Uhhhh….Thank you?” The point of what they are doing is time-bound and competitive. They are training for a purpose.

What I am doing is preparing to leave Michigan. I am not de-cluttering, let alone organizing. Don’t get me wrong. I am way more organized than I have ever been. When a snake sheds its skin, it does not collect a pile of former skins and organize them according to size, thickness, or color. (Organizing is always according to some principle: date, alphabetically, etc., to take the randomness out of the situation.) No. It leaves them all behind. It moves forward without them.

Are people really missing the point regarding what I am doing that badly? Am I miscommunicating my intentions? Will these same folks be mystified when the “for sale” sign is planted in my yard? We’ll see, I guess.

Letting Go Every Day

“In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped. Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” Tao Te Ching, chapter 28, Stephen Mitchell translation

This is what I’ve been living lately: dropping something every day. It sounds so easy, so deceptively easy.

I’m still fighting the weird spiritual battle of putting forth a herculean effort and not getting much accomplished, at least on the surface. I’ve been making appointments to get things done to the house to prepare it for sale—and I somehow always get canceled on. It is as if I am surrounded by a big spiritual black hole where time, effort, and energy go in and zilch comes out.

My solution? Do what I can. Every single day. I’ve been rooting around and looking for things to get rid of or organize. For example, I just cleaned out my car’s trunk, getting rid of the remnant of a bag of salt, pitching a few items, and dust-busting. Also, tomorrow the trash gets hauled away, so tonight I am looking for enough crap to fill the Granger container, given that we use less than one entire bag of trash per week.

“So what?” You may ask. By doing these “little” things, I am making my life easier for when, probably quite suddenly, things speed up for me and the timing of events is completely taken from my hands. If things are going to move excruciatingly slowly for the time being, I shall use that to my advantage as much as possible.

“Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action.” To me, this sounds deceptive, as if you might finally get things the way you like them and can relax at last. That impression is the exact opposite of reality. Reality is change; change is reality. Anyone unwilling to deal with change is refusing to deal with reality. I am not talking about forcing things to happen because I am unsure if that is even possible. I am talking about accepting changes and not resisting them, riding on the wings of change, if you will.

I cannot force things to happen, but I can gradually eliminate all obstacles and sharpen my mind for the next phase of my life. I can just see it. When the next phase starts, people are going to say I am so lucky to be so ready. My attitude will undoubtedly be along the lines of, “Seriously? Lucky?” I’ll just laugh, remembering the truth of 2013-2015.

Words that Heal

“‘Words, words, words; the way is beyond language,’ writes Sengcan, yet he is using language to illuminate words. Zen Buddhism vehemently undermines and deconstructs the reality of language and thought by using language and thought. …The ultimate truth cannot be grasped through thinking. The Zen tradition in particular celebrates words through its dedication to poetry and haiku as ways to manifest this truth. ….Zen teaches that “not speaking a single word” is the only way to access reality.…If someone wants to control us for their own purposes, the only thing they really need to do is to use words in a skillful way, and we’re hooked. Our blind attachment to those words becomes a ring in our nose. The degree to which we are unaware of our attachment to words, concepts and thoughts is the degree to which we can be controlled. When we bring awareness to the nature of words and thoughts, we free ourselves within those words and thoughts.” Words That Heal, Senior’s Talk by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Osho, Featured in Mountain Record 27.2, Winter 2008

This is the best explanation of words, language, and Zen that I have found. It encompasses both the irony of using words to “eff” the ineffable and our ability to be manipulated due to our attachments to words, concepts, and thoughts.

In case no one could tell, I have serious fifth chakra issues. Language, words, communication, deception, and the like have all taken up much of my mind space. Issues revolving around them have occupied much of my life.

Leaving church is my impetus for seeking my own voice and being true to whatever it is that I am or am not. I am freeing myself from my own demons, especially the ones that I have projected upon others to live out. I am taking off the blinders of attachment to words, concepts, and thought.

I am reclaiming my brain. I am making brain space for experiences and intuition where at one time only obsessive thinking ruled.


This Prison of Life

“I’d like to advise that you use this word “upadana” instead of “attachment”or any other English translation…..We must realize that the heart of Buddhism is to wipe out upadana. The heart of Buddhism is that which gets rid of upadana, or cut it out. Then there is no prison, and then there is no dukkha. You must take the meaning of the English words attachment, grasping, and clinging, then combine them to get the meaning of “upadana.” It’s better for us to use the word upadana.…The heart of Buddhism is just to uproot or cut out this upadana. Then dukkha will be finished. Please understand that this is the heart of all Buddhism.” The Prison of Life
By Buddhadasa Bikkhu http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/The_Prison_of_Life_by_Buddhadasa_Bikkhu

It is refreshing to see an explanation of Buddhism this simple. It is easy to forget how simple it is because there are so many schools, traditions, nationalities, languages, etc., of Buddhism. My preference is for Zen because it includes a strong Taoist bent and the Japanese masters all seem to have a dry sense of humor, which I appreciate. Their ruthless acceptance of reality contrasts nicely with the fantasy-bound perspectives I still encounter among Christian leaders.

It’s all about being done with suffering. The source of suffering is upadana. This word is new to me. I am only familiar with its English translations: grasping, attachment, clinging, etc. It is no surprise that the author considers thes translation inadequate. It reminds me of the Greek word “logos”. “In the beginning was the Logos…” It gets translated as “word” but that is an anemic translation. I once looked it up in a Greek dictionary and found dozens of meanings. “Word” is probably the most succinctly accurate translation, but no translation could ever do it justice. Upadana is likely similar.

We all know what upadana feels like. “My life would be so much better if I just had ________.” My Amazon account testifies to my obsessions. To just deal with reality is so anti-climactic.

The prison of life is truly locked from the inside.


Where is the Barrier?

Where Is the Barrier

 “Within adversity or injustice it is especially difficult to understand that if we want to get to the root of the suffering, we have to deal with both the creator and master of the suffering. It can be difficult when the problem seems so clearly located somewhere else. And, indeed, there may be a real problem. But if we want to get to the root of suffering, as Qinshan said, we have to bring out the master within that barrier. Because we’ll find that even when injustice has been rectified, even when inequality has turned to equality, the root of suffering persists. This is what the Buddha realized. This is the First Noble Truth, “Life is dukkha.””Dharma Talk by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei Blue Cliff Record, Case 56 Quinshan’s One Arrowpoint Smashes Three Barriers Featured in Mountain Record 28.2, Winter 2009

What does this mean? It means that, even if equality and justice prevail, we will still suffer. That does not give us an excuse to do wrong for selfish purposes. Who wants that kind of karma coming back to kick their butt?

The suffering comes from the never-ending parade of wants. Have you ever tried to meditate? I’ve noticed that I’ll have an itch and, if I avoid scratching it long enough, it moves to another spot. Wants don’t end.

It doesn’t stop. Being the master and creator of suffering means, in my opinion, learning how not to scratch the itch of every desire. I’m not saying desire is bad. Desires can be used for the benefit of our fellow humans. I am talking about developing self-control and discernment regarding one’s desires. This is where Buddhism provides a foundation for discernment that American Christianity doesn’t.

Imagine that you do not fulfill a desire. Never fear: there’s another coming right around the corner. Becoming desire-free is not the goal. Knowing what satisfies and what doesn’t is. Desire isn’t the problem; attachment to our desires is.



Attachments, Pros and Cons

Recently, I’ve been feeling strangely detached from others’ dramas. I’ve wondered if this is normal, that kind of thing. I’ve come to the conclusion that not being attached is ultimately the only way to be helpful to people.

Other people expect me to share their opinions and are often upset when I don’t. When I do not take their offense personally, then they are further offended. On the other hand, when I get involved emotionally involved with people’s dramas, then I get upset and my relationships get unnecessarily complicated. Given that I am in an essentially unwinnable position, I may as well not tax my emotions and health.

Doubting myself doesn’t help. When I question myself, then I am intellectually and emotionally entangled, which doesn’t enable me to be helpful to others.

I guess there aren’t really any pros of emotional attachments. I still have love for people; I just don’t get sucked into their dramas.