The Bearable Lightless of Being..

29 August 2017

Updated 17 April 2018

Detachment is not that you should own nothing but that nothing should own you

Imam Ali


Since I started blogging I ‘ve been wanting to write about the attachment that human beings tend to develop for the world we live in. Some are attached to success, wealth, status. Some attachments are formed with material possessions, a common one being an attachment to a beautiful car you may own, or a house that must be kept in immaculate condition with state of the art décor, or even to things like shoes or clothes. The most powerful attachments are less tangible and take the form of emotional attachments to the people we love. Sometimes attachments are less obvious and take the form of an idea that people have of themselves and how they how they see the world. It is, I suspect it is not uncommon to have a combination of different powerful attachments. Whatever the flavour, these attachments are as valuable as their date of termination. The only problem is that the date of termination is uncertain as it inevitably is determined by the date of one’s death, therefore its value becomes somewhat diminished. A morbid but critical subject, death. It is the ONLY absolute certainty of LIFE. If we know we are to die, why the incessant need to attach ourselves to things, thoughts and feelings that are finite, as we will inevitably have to detach ourselves from them at the point of our departure for this world, whenever that is. The harder we cling to it, the more difficult it will be to let go of. Even more alarming is the thought of building all our hopes and dreams on a transient and temporary world. That is not to say that one should not live life, have hopes and dreams, own things. The problem arises when those things, thoughts and feelings own you. How do you feel when your brand-new car gets a dent or a scratch, does it rip at your insides a little? How about if your expensive leather couch gets a stain, do you physically feel a pain? If we pin all our desire and energy on anything so uncertain, we are sure to be distraught by the loss of it. I am reminded of the words of a song by Dido– “My life is for rent… cause nothing I have is truly mine.”  Is this not true though? We have the use of things but in reality, we own nothing, even if we have paid up houses or cars, for the majority, even those are owned by financial institutions, to whom we are enslaved over a period of years until the debt is paid, giving us a shallow illusion of ownership. The truth is that a paid-up house remains here after you depart and is of no use to you. Maybe for your children who then repeat the cycle of owning something which will ultimately have zero personal value to them at the point of death. What is the sense in engaging your consciousness in acquiring and consuming until you die. Then what? This, to me represents compelling proof that the bedazzlement of the world is a distraction from the substance of a meaningful life.

Have things, love with all your heart, but understand that they will be lost one day, and be prepared to let go. Wouldn’t it be better to mentally detach yourself now so that if you experience loss it is an experience and not a suffering? It becomes easier if you accept that everything in life is on loan. It goes without saying therefore, that the Giver of life, is also the taker thereof, and therefore the benefactor of everything.  We can be dispossessed at any time.  Is it not more fruitful to attach less importance to materiality rather than focusing on reducing and managing the risk of loss?  The incredible stress of averting loss when compared to the freedom of emotional detachment is priceless.  As a human being, how much do you really control? If you are struggling to maintain what you have, whether it be millions, or enough to get through day by day, it is still a struggle. There can be no control in struggle. Struggle to control is almost an oxymoron. Letting go could begin by allowing that scratch on your car or the stain on your couch be a reminder of the transience of everything you ‘own’ or control.

We also have the wonderful gift of relationships, be they with our partners or children, friends or lovers, none of which we have any really measure of dominion over.  How do we deal with loss of a loved one, through death, separation or anything else for that matter? The ultimate loss by death of a loved one is obviously difficult.  If you’ve ever experienced the loss of a loved one through illness, you may be familiar with the feeling of not doing enough to try to get them back to health, blaming doctors or medications etc. The passing of my beloved father, (May he be in the highest place of peace), was excruciating for me. He was ill for 9 months and I constantly thought he would get better and regain his health, and I thought there must be more that I could do to speed up that process.   My father had been a focal influence in my life and I had a deep attachment to him. He was my back-up; my security, and his passing felt like a rug was being pulled out from under my feet. I struggled to believe that he was passing away, but eventually I realised it was his time, and mercifully, I was able to let go before he peacefully passed on. It was his time. He returned unto his Creator and journeyed to the next phase of his existence. I miss him every day, but I can continue my life with appreciation of the invaluable tools he had left me.  I am at peace in the knowledge and acceptance that he has continued his journey, where I would have to follow when it is my time. Life is a gift, as is everything else made available to us on this earth, but like everything else it is temporary and can be taken away, lost, or destroyed.

The most excruciating pain I could conceive would be to lose one of my 3 precious children, and even though I’d rather not entertain the thought, I am acutely aware that I have no control over their or my time on this earth. I was tested when my oldest son wanted a gap year in Australia this year at an Aborigine School in Queensland, in the Australian outback in the middle of nowhere.   I knew it would be good for him for character building amongst other life lessons. Closer to the time of his departure I had misgivings and a voice in my head kept saying ‘he is not coming back’.  I was almost overcome by my fear of losing him but succumbed to the realisation that holding onto him would neither lengthen nor shorten his journey on this earth and beyond, and that travel he must.  I entrusted him His Creator, knowing that I have no control over whether he will return to me or not. I do however pray for his safe return, but I cannot be consumed by it.

Detachment does not mean giving up everything and living the life of a hermit. We are social beings and have dependencies on each other. We need relationships and things and worldly attractions but to become attached to them whether they be things or people to the extent that they consume and own you, and define your existence, is an unworthy and fruitless pursuit. Juxtapose angst of attachment with the liberation of detachment, which allows you the freedom to appreciate the gifts of this world and yet enable the lightness of letting them go. Simply put – Travel lightly. My personal reminder to aid my detachment of all that I love in this world is to submit to my Creator as my benefactor, and the owner, controller, designer of everything in this world and beyond. Any control we think we have is but the illusion of control. The ultimate control lies with the Master of the universe and unto Him is our return. With love Radia