Buddha in the GardenBuddhism’s precepts and concepts come up a lot in my thinking. I listen and learn a lot but it takes real life to bring it home, doesn’t it?

Attachment to outcome and its accompanying suffering, for example…

I have viewed and reviewed various aspects of attachment and have come up with a workable belief system about it. For me, love doesn’t necessarily equate to attachment in the Buddhist sense. Although, if I only loved a person if they loved me back; that would be attachment to outcome.

Enjoying my worldly goods and simple pleasures is not necessarily attachment, but if these things were more important to me than life or love – I would question the situation.

It’s even possible, I think, to become attached to learning, or knowledge, or a spiritual path in such a way that they become a deterrent to an overall healthy life. As long as we are going down that road- let’s include diet and fitness in that “unhealthy attachment” category.

But back to the current subject… Lately, I have had some stunning object lessons.

I love my children and grandchildren. In fact, my most important job at this point in my life is to perfect my love for my family. I can do this without reserve. There are no qualifications necessary. My best gift is unearned love without expectations.

But then there are those special manifestations of love: when I want to share money, gifts, or even thoughts and ideas with my grandchildren. This is when I see my attachment to things.

I don’t need anyone to agree with me. I love sharing my beliefs in order to hear those of others. The robust exchange of ideas is most pleasurable when there are sharp edges to pierce the shiny surfaces that we have developed in our minds.

And I don’t necessarily need praise or approbation. At least, not like I used to. We all like approval but I don’t mind butting heads and I’m pretty secure in what I do nowadays. I am more sure of myself and my path.

But when I send gift cards, or books, or a funny greeting card, I like to get a response. I don’t need much. Never having been faithful at sending cards of acknowledgement, I am perfectly happy with a text or a note on Facebook. I love the occasional email and revel in the joy of a phone call.

For various reasons there are times when none of this happens. Fairly quickly I begin to get antsy. I bury my anxiety in the worry over whether items arrived. After all, I have sent something of value. Did it get there? Did the post office lose it or misdirect it?

Angst!!!! (Also known as suffering.)

I now believe that my attachment to outcome is the underlying culprit. I want to know that he or she liked it. I want to have some warm fuzzies for my effort. I’m not trying to buy love, but my “pleaser” comes out to play and wants attention and feedback.

Obviously I still have some work to do in my practice. A dose of reality would be a start.

Since I’m not Pema Chodron or another celebrated guru, as an elder I can’t be assured of a rapt audience. I’m well known to be there when needed but not necessarily as captivating and entertaining as I would like to imagine. (I well remember my father, who admittedly loved the sound of his own voice, going into preaching mode at every opportunity. Did I pay much attention? Not!)

And since I don’t live in close proximity to many of my beloved younger generation and am years distant in current experience, it’s pretty hard to know what sort of gifts they need, what books interest them, or even which gift certificates would thrill them.

I have created unreal expectations and have some hard choices.

Of course, I can just send them love and affection. I can stop sending items, talk things over when I see them, and only give what they request.

Or I can detach from the things I send.

No matter what choice I make, if I wish to forego suffering I must send my gifts as willingly as I send my love – without strings and without expectations of reception or response.

Practice. Practice. Practice.



  1. I have been grappling with the concept of attachment as well, living as I do in the same premises as my son and daugher in law do. You can imagine that it will be difficult not to get involved in some of their problems and try as hard as I might, I do get affected. I don’t get involved, but affected I do. I have been re-reading Erich Fromm’s The Art Of Loving to get a grip on this very difficult subject and think that he may have the answer when he explains the phenomenon. I don’t have to be detached but I can become aware of my reactions and take necessary action to stay out of the situations.


Agree? Disagree? Have your say...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s