Playing with attachments

[Steve’s note: I reserve the right to be completely wrong in my interpretation of religious texts. And that’s more than you’ll get from most folks, huh?]

When I first started reading the book Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, I had problems with the concept of “this is it.”

And not just because I keep thinking of a Huey Lewis and the News song.

The phrase is repeated a couple of different times throughout the book, and was heavily used by the person who recommended it to me. Something just seemed… wrong about it. I wondered – and even railed, a little bit – against the idea. By simply accepting things as they are, I thought, then there is no room to grow. There is no progress, whether one means spiritually, technologically, or whatever. It seemed to be a defeatist and resigned phrase.

It kept me stalled with the book for months.

Until I remembered the Vinegar Tasters.

There’s a wonderful passage in Tao of Pooh, excerpted here. Go read it really quickly and come back. It’s a short bit.

::taps foot, hums, waits::

Okay, back? Both the Confuscian and Buddhist viewpoints, as illustrated in the above passage, still have attachments and expectations for a goal. (I’m using attachment in a quasi-Buddhist sense here.) Confusicanism strives for the old order, Buddhism for detachment. But to me, that seems to still be a kind of attachment.

Likewise, saying “this is it” with a sense of “letting go” of our goals and expectations still requires attachment to our goals and expectations. There’s a metaphysical prepositional phrase, if you will, tying you to the things you’re attached to. Saying “I am here, my attachments are over there” or even “I no longer have attachments” seem to be the same as detachment. Yet in so saying, the attachments are still firmly in mind. Maybe not in front of you, maybe not overwhelming you. Maybe even existing only in the past tense. But they’re there.

Instead, think of play-doh. Or building blocks. Or sand.

They are there. They, to steal the phrase, are it. But within them is all sorts of potential – my son spent a good bit of his time at his grandparents playing “Plants vs. Zombies” with Play-doh and action figures. Rather than whine (much) about the lack of a computer game, he used the things there.

They were it, and that was okay.