Attachment and the Ego

From the moment we are born, we are emotionally, mentally, and physically attached to others. Usually the first attachment is to the mother, then to the father, siblings, and extended family. Attachment progresses to other people we form close emotional bonds with friends, teachers, colleagues and of course lovers. But attachment doesn’t stop at people, we are also attached to animals, usually pets, plants, and even things.

I once heard of a lady who was so attached to her car that she instructed, in her last will, to be buried in the car upon her death. I thought this was most bizarre. But attachment is the product of emotions. We don’t really covet the object of our attachment but rather the emotional value it represents.

I was once having a conversation with a friend about the level of crime in our city. The topic of hijacking invariably came up and he told me, with fierce conviction, that they would have to kill him to take his car. I was puzzled and asked him if insurance would not be the cheaper option. He found my question to be somewhat irritating, as according to him, he couldn’t afford insurance.

As much as there are positive emotions to attachment, there are also negative ones. If you take away a child’s favourite toy, you have to deal with a very unhappy child. As humans, we tend to handle loss very poorly. If we lose an item or one is stolen or taken from us, we consider it a personal attack. As a young man, I remember being robbed by two men at knife-point.
It was no great loss, as I only had R50 in my wallet at the time. But I felt a sense of violation from the experience. As if, I had lost my worth as a person. It filled me with anger to think that I could be so easily “de-valued”.

Of course, only later on in life did I understand that what I felt was really just the bruising of my fragile ego. It is the ego that nurtures attachment. Our own self importance is what hurts us the most. Out of the ego comes fear, anger, depression and a host of other negative feelings.

So, ego and attachment are really inseparable. To get destroy the ego, one must get rid of attachment. And to get rid of attachment, one must destroy the ego. Personally, I choose the latter. I find it somewhat easier to humble myself and ignore any sense of self importance. This way, the ego is diminished to the point that it no longer exists. It is easier said than done of course, but by following certain practices one will be able to achieve this. One of the most effective methods of forgetting one’s own self importance is to perform some sort of charity. Whether it is donating money to a worthy cause or donating one’s time and energy to help others, the spiritual benefits are immense.

One should, however, guard against expecting any kind of reward, especially praise or fame, for one’s actions. When one is given any form of accolade for doing charitable work, accept humbly and appreciate the gratitude that one receives.

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Understanding the Soul

 

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One of the greatest misconceptions people have about the soul is that it is a part of you or that it resides in the body. Also, the soul is often mistaken as the mind. The two are completely different.

The soul is a pure, everlasting, completely independent energy that your physical being is sustained by. You are merely a reflection of the soul.

You may think of the soul as your most perfect self that you aspire to be. The soul knows no suffering, misery, fear, desire nor weakness. It is perfect in itself. The soul needs nor wants for anything. It’s is complete.

So, why then it’s attachment to a physical being? That is indeed a question which only can be answered by the supreme power. All we know is that we have been given the example of perfection in the soul and must aspire in our material lives to emulate it.

And what is the purpose of this life, you may ask? Honestly, I have pondered many theories and beliefs in this regard and quite frankly, non have offered me a satisfactory answer. Maybe there is no purpose to life. Maybe it is really just a random sequence of events that we are subject to. I actually find the question itself quite silly to put it bluntly.

Life being so temporary that one has no idea when it may end, can’t possibly have any significant purpose, can it? The real purpose is the realisation of our spiritual identities and the celebration of the soul.

 

Inner Peace

DSC_0313It must be the one question I get asked most often, “How can I find inner peace? “. The reality is that inner peace already exists within all of us. It is the natural condition of our souls. The reason most people are unable to experience it is that their minds are occupied by thoughts and emotions of material or physical attachment. To experience inner peace, one must be detached from all that is physical and focus on the moment without dwelling on the past nor contemplating the future.

Most would argue that this is an impossible task. Of course it could be if one were to attempt it without proper guidance and knowledge. Take for example the ability to swim. You may watch someone swim. You may read about how to swim. But without the help of a good instructor, your chances of learning to swim are indeed limited.

Over the centuries many cultures have devised methods to achieve inner peace. Some are simple, like indulging in some form of self expression. Whilst others are a bit more difficult to attain,  like meditation. Whatever the method one chooses, the destination is the same.

A young lady once asked me if there was a “best” time and direction to be facing when practicing meditation. I found this to be a most amusing question. I replied that the best time to meditate was as soon as she thought of it. And the best direction to face would be inward. She unfortunately, did not see the humour in it.

Before one even considers embarking on the road to inner peace, one needs to prepare for the journey. There are a number of changes one needs to adopt in order to prepare the mind and body for the experience. The first thing that needs to change are your habits. It is something most people do not realise but one’s habits do have a great influence on the minds ability to focus.

I’m not suggesting that you give up all worldly pleasures and become a hermit. That is not the most practical course of action. In fact I know of a man who spent many years as a monk in a Buddhist monastery only to realise that it was not the answer to his questions. Instead he left the monastery, got married, had a family and started a business. And he also maintained his inner peace. And that is the point I am getting to. You may be completely at peace regardless of the situation you are in, as long as you understand the difference between your physical existence and your spiritual being.