On Attachment and Softness
For 11 years I avoided attachment as a Buddhist monk, dedicating myself to renouncing attachment believing that freeing myself from the bonds of attachment was the gateway to liberation and self-realization. I was taught the difference between rejection and renunciation and understood intellectually that one needs to experience something to let go of it and that you are not free of the grip of that which you reject without truly knowing it. I even came to the realization that my cloistered life as a monk was a rejection of my brothers and sisters “out there” whose liberation I thought I was contributing to. So I left that life behind to re-connect with the world that I had rejected and soon got married and had a daughter but my fear of attachment still had a grip on me. I was aware of my fear of rejection and the connected fear of hurting another if I rejected them. I believed that ultimately happiness lies inside and that no one else can give us contentment and fulfillment. I also understood intellectually that my fear of attachment was the biggest attachment of all.
In a conversation with a wise and dear friend yesterday we were reflecting about how we both believed in self-reliance and how we were both attachment-avoiders and yet were painfully conscious of how unhealthy the division and isolation in the world we live in currently is. We both knew how healing it is to reach out to another or be reached out to. Then it hit me: If ultimately we are all One connected Self, then what’s the difference between relying on ourselves and relying on “others” to find contentment or fulfillment ? Again, that was an intellectual concept, an interesting philosophical insight but not truly knowing Oneness. This morning upon waking up I discovered a message from my wise dear friend sharing a guided meditation called Your Seed of Softness. All my life I have felt empathy for others and could cry for others but rarely for myself. A part of me judged that shedding tears for myself would be self-indulgent self-pity. Recently I became physically sick and this has made me feel more vulnerable. The ironic thing about sickness is that it is actually our body-mind trying to heal itself. The physical vulnerability is not fun for me but I felt my emotional vulnerability as a gentle voice calling me to surrender my self-protection. I needed to soften the hard edges of my ego structure that I have built in this life to avoid feeling my own buried trauma. I listened to and experienced the guided meditation and for the first time in my remembered memory tears for me flowed easily as I tenderly embraced myself. I also clearly felt the physical healing.
I am sharing this because I believe that all of us need to trust our capacity to feel our vulnerability and receive the gift that opening our heart to ourselves brings. Taking the time everyday to connect with ourselves, love ourselves, all of ourselves, is the only way that we can truly open our heart to others. It is also what we need to do to heal ourselves, each other and our shared world. Martial arts teach us that hard resistance is easy to knock down or pull off its position. Softness is strength. There is nothing more powerful than Love.