One of the primary concepts in Buddhism is that impermanence is an undeniable fact of human existence. For each of us this means that nothing in our lives is permanent, not our job, not our health, not our relationships, not even our state of mind. If we can accept that nothing lasts forever and that it will inevitably change then we are more capable of understanding attachment.
Many of us are attached to who we think we are because of what we do for a living. We secretly know that whatever it is we do will not last, but we still place great emphasis on this role. We often use this role in society to attach some value to ourselves, and yes whatever we do is often in exchange for money, so it does have value. It strokes our ego to be paid for some form of expertise and we attach ourselves to this title be it a Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, Judge, Accountant, CEO, CIO, Director, or whatever it might be. We scheme and plan for the next role using our expertise to acquire more money, a higher position, or some other ego enhancing attribute. We have attached our self to this persona and we find comfort in the fact that others find value in utilizing our skills.
Yet this attachment goes beyond the role we have chosen for ourselves that generates income. We start to attach ourselves to political parties, calling ourselves a Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. Our attachments are strong, as you have often heard people say I’m a lifelong Republican or Democrat. If this were not enough we attach ourselves to things such as cars, homes, boats, jewelry, stocks, bonds, gold or some other material thing. We attach ourselves to other people like a family member, a spouse, co-worker, or a friend. We also attach ourselves to a self image of the way we look and our health good or bad.
With all these attachments we become very reliant on our role, organizations, health, things, and people for defining our identity. All of this is a house of cards, we will not escape the reality of impermanence, for every one of these things that we think defines our life are constantly changing. These attachments ultimately lead to one disappointment after another, as they unravel before our eyes and I assure you they will.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying what you do for a living, but remember at some point it will change. Even the most successful Doctor finds a time when he or she can no longer practice medicine, or no longer wants to. Strong attachments will create pain as they are broken and this is what this post is about. I’m not advocating that you live a life where you don’t care about anything or anyone, but you must let loose of the attachment to these things. Accept the fact that your life will change and that you will change physically, mentally, and spiritually. Do you really want your self worth tied to some profession? When you were born were you predestined to be a doctor, lawyer, executive, or factory worker? You made choices to pursue various lines of work and became what you pursued. Drop that attachment, you are not what you do for a living, and it does not define you, and as sure as it started it will end or change.
Start thinking about what you are attached to and how you can be open to things beyond your attachments. Can you find it in yourself to be less dependent on what you do for a living, organizations, people, and things. If you can, I assure you that you will become more care free; you will still care but you will not let these attachments dictate your happiness. To free yourself from attachments is a key step to following the way. I will see you on the path.