Overcoming Soul Stickiness

Flowers growing from the fallen leaves.
New life springs from the fallen leaves.

I’d like to have a fresh new shiny topic to write on this week, but the truth is I’ve still been thinking a lot about attachment and detachment.

Thanks to the reflection prompted by the excellent comments on the last post, I’ve gained a bit more perspective on what  detachment is, and what it isn’t.

Now, when I suffer, I’ll try to ask myself how I am avoiding the present by sticking to the past.

Kathryn explained in her comment:

Forging soul, living connected to your inner being is about an awareness. It is about seeing each moment that you are experiencing as simply that…a moment.

And every moment passes. Every moment teaches us something. Every moment is an experience that helps our souls to grow.

Detachment doesn’t have to mean that we become numb, or emotionally disconnected, it, to me, is about a my point of clarity. It is about understanding that I can indeed walk through this world with an open heart, unafraid of experiencing pain, because even if I do cross paths with it, or a less than pleasant experience, it too will pass.

That is so beautiful…you’d never know that Kathryn has a wonderful blog of her own, where she hones the ability to write with such clarity and feeling, would you?

And Fran, another blogger-friend, gently warned me in her comment that the detachment I am so wary of is a bit of a straw man; the real detachment spoken of by the ancients was more subtle and deep:

You can still feel compassion, love, etc. But there is a ‘knowing’ that this is what it is in the moment.

I could have quoted the Tao Te Ching to present such insights. But isn’t it wonderful to have living wisdom to draw from? How rich our lives are when we have friends that heap treasures on us every day…

I’m finding that for me, the way to get at this is not so much by thinking of attachment and detachment separately, but to think in terms of stickiness, and how to overcome it.

By default, when I am not paying attention to it, my mind is pretty sticky.

I latch on to the good experiences so that when the time comes for them to pass, they have to rip a part of me off to get free. Thus wounded, I keep holding on to the empty air. The result is the experience of emptiness and loss–I can’t embrace the next thing waiting to come into my life because my arms are wrapped firmly around a memory.

Negativity tends to stick to me too, and keep me from being able to welcome the next moment into my consciousness.

In both cases, what I am struggling with is letting go, not the general quality of being detached.

The way to flourish is not to live a life pervaded by detachment. Embrace each moment of experience. But cultivate a willingness to let go–both of things that seemed good, and those that seemed bad.

It seems like a paradox. Were you ever really attached if you can detach so easily? Just one of the many paradoxes of life, I suppose. Through practice, I believe you can be passionately involved in each passing moment, but at the same time learn to be less sticky; learn to let the flow go on inexorably, without so much resistance from your expectations and desires.

Time passes, things change. We can’t do anything about that. But by using attention and will to immerse ourselves in the present moment while letting go of the past, we can live with greater serenity.

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4 Responses to Overcoming Soul Stickiness

  1. i always visualize detachment as little mini me walking out of my body and then turning back and staring at me to observe. weird. i sometimes have this sort of illusions
    but i guess that’s my detachment. the take a step back to evaluate and to understand
    Noch Noch

    • Mark says:

      Yeah, that is how I generally think of detachment too, Noch. It seemed like the opposite of how I think a person should live. But after a lot of thought, I think I understood it more deeply. Realized it is more a matter of being less sticky: letting things go, but also letting things come to you too.

  2. Kathryn says:

    Mark,

    You flatter me beyond measure and I’ll echo this right back to you, “But isn’t it wonderful to have living wisdom to draw from? How rich our lives are when we have friends that heap treasures on us every day…”

    I really like the distinction between detachment and letting go. It’s a fine line isn’t it? And thank you for your honesty, because you are definitely not alone. I too struggle still with the letting go ~ especially of expectations. But I say, at least we recognize them, because you cannot break patterns, behaviors or habits until we can first recognize their existence.

    Thanks as always for sharing your wonderful insights & wisdom!

    Always,

    ~ Kathryn

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Kathryn.

      It’s funny–after multiple posts and a lot of thought on soul stickiness, detachment, and so on, what did I spend the past week doing? Being stuck on the ending of a video game, of all things! To such an extent it was all I could write on. After writing 7000 words on it, I posted 700 at my personal site, and finally got back to normal. Talk about struggling to let go!

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