Monday, November 19, 2007

reflections on non-attachment

We're both looking for something we've been afraid to find.
For once in my life, I'm scared to death.
It's easier to be broken. It's easier to hide."
- First Time (song) by Lifehouse

This came from my journal ... reflections on the trip.

I was really excited on the flight home to Houston, as well as the last leg of the trip from Bangkok to LA. Don't know why, it was just this bubbling energy from the adventure gone by, that all had gone well, that I was safe and sound and the bonding and connecting that occurred really mostly toward the last days. For many days of the trip I just felt alone, though not lonely, but didn't know if I fit in. Anyway, as I was riding in the bus back to Bhadrapur from the mountain highlands I started to reflect on the sort of detached attitude I carried through the trip and wondered where could I find again this pure joy that I experienced when I spent some weeks in solitude in New Mexico? Why on my trips to Peru, the Galapagos and now Nepal was I not feeling particularly inspired? I felt mostly just a lone soul wandering through a distant land. I liked the people on the trip but making friends takes time. There's no instant bonding as adults, I think, the way kids do.

At one point on the trip a communication breakdown, and some small frustrations added up and I felt overwhelmingly not just a lone soul but I felt strongly that I'd made a poor choice in coming on this trip and spending money that I should have saved or spent on the kids education or something for our family (since my editor said I could write the article without going - though of course such articles are inevitably better when one sees things first-hand). I questioned myself as to why I made the choice to wander and explore when my heart truly belongs at home, with my children who need me and my ability to love, protect, cherish and guide them. (I also do believe that kids suffer when parents have unlived lives or unmet dreams -- they sacrifice too much of themselves at the kids' expense... kids need parents as role models also). But in my circumstance, money is truly extremely tight and I just felt that I'd made a bad choice. I started to cry as I walked alone down and up the rugged path, people far behind me and people far in front of me but me alone.

I felt maybe the reasons I chose to go to Nepal - besides my wanderlust and desire to see all the continents - will come out in time. I certainly loved seeing the red pandas in the wild, something very few Westerners have seen - few people at all, for that matter. I loved the scenery (though cows and their cowbells are omnipresent no matter how seemingly remote the forest or extreme the slope), and I loved the hard sweaty, heart-pumping, breath-taking trekking we did and meeting new people and seeing the culture.

I came to a sort of conclusion that I want to travel with someone rather than alone. I don't mind being alone but there's something to be said for traveling with a close friend or partner who you share a bond with already before the experience. I think that having someone like that there would have made all the difference. I'm a social person who cherishes my friendships, even as I also need a lot of alone time to nurture my creative spirit. The experience certainly enriched the muse and gave me some inspiration for the fount. The feeling on the plane was unmistakable, just hopefulness, excitement and energy and a desire to step back into a leadership role that I have given a backseat over the last few years. I love public speaking, teaching a group of students, and hope that with my book I can step back into that role.

I also had some insight into religion and spirituality as I reflected. Being in a nation with a lot of Tibetan prayer flags, Buddhist temples and Hindu worship (and sharing a trip with Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and myself a Christian) I got to thinking about the Zen Buddhist principle of non-attachment. I am interested in knowing the origin of this principle and its etymology, because I tend to think that attachment is normal and healthy - to friends, family, children, and even God. It's when attachment degenerates into addiction that problems ensue. We have to be able to say goodbye - often permanently - to people or ideas that no longer work without catapulting into depression or an inability to function. The alternative is that the principle is 'wrong'... though I tend to think not because Jesus' teachings repeatedly echo these words about non-attachment or what I'd refer to more as non-addiction.

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25) -- don't be attached to your very life because it's a temporary home of the spirit which has a greater purpose - to serve and love selflessly. Death is not to be feared.

When his immediate family wanted to speak with Jesus while he was in a crowd, he replied, "Who is my mother? And who are my brothers? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Mt 12:48-50). In other words, do not be too attached to blood family because although it's natural to feel more altruistically toward them, our true calling is to God and hence all humanity. We are all brothers and sisters, we are all One. Our duty is to serve all.

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Mt 6:24) In other words, do not be too addicted or attached to money or the seeking after of it...Jesus also told the parable of the rich fool: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16-21). Many more teachings on greed and attachments to money are there also...such as when he tells the young man to sell all his possessions and follow him.

Do not be addicted to outcome... "God's will be done" even to the point of death such as Jesus crucifixion. There's a far greater good that comes out of suffering done for God's glory. Don't take this out of context though - there's never glory in inflicting suffering on another nor in staying in a relationship or situation in which one's very life, safety or sanity are threatened. I do believe that God brings good out of our suffering if we're open to the life lessons within and our hearts do not become hardened but stay open and humble. We can see a thousand deaths but still know that death - even if prolonged and tortured and scary - is not eternal but a momentary suffering. Sometimes perhaps it's harder to see death than to experience it. Death occurs and ends but our life sustains beyond it. Even if one doesn't believe in an afterlife, the gifts or creative works we leave behind, the love we've shared and given to others through hugs, kind words, smiles, friendships - these things live on after our death. Our molecules certainly live on - forming into dust and then into other organisms or parts of the earth and the universe. As Michael Dowd says, we are all stardust!

So overall I sort of had a feeling that I was ready to 'feel' again, to risk, to feel deeply and passionately in the part of myself that I seem to have closed off somehow, maybe due to detachment. But detachment differs from non-attachment. So... Bring it on!


Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Wendee, I was deeply moved by the juxtaposition of this post with all the images of your travels. You have truly been on two journeys these last two weeks, and I'm not wise enough to say anything other than thank you for sharing both....Scott

Unknown said...

Thanks for your kind words Scott! I have so many more photos to post, so many more stories to tell... but these will have to do for now... peace!

Unknown said...

Sometimes traveling vicariously through others is a great substitute for the real thing. Thanks for taking me along without having to endure the physical and emotional hardships thus allowing me to enjoy the journey. Remember that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.