Over the past couple of years I have been working on getting better at remaining unattached to things, ideas and outcomes. Both Taoism and Buddhism make reference to striving for non-attachment. As I understand it, Buddhism sees attachment to the idea of a separate self as the root of all suffering.
"Everything changes. Everything is impermanent. It is our attempt to attach ourselves to impermanent things, and gain happiness thereby, that guarantees and perpetuates suffering. "
Taoism has a similar, but different take: in recognizing that all things are One, we don't need to distinguish between or make value judgments among things, and so we can remain unattached from the 'pull' of valuing one thing over another.
When you lose your attachment from “this and that”, you can then see that in reality all things are the same. By doing so you lose the attachment to “things” and awaken the attachment that has always existed between you and the source (Tao).
I've been getting a bit better at lessening my cravings for/attachments to certain things, like a new TV, or food to taste a certain way after I cook it, or having my plans go as planned. But where I have not made any progress at all is in the realm of my political expectations. This has been made quite clear to me in my reaction to the most recent political events in Canada, particularly last week's decision by the Governor General to prorogue Canada's parliament. I became mad, irrationally mad about it. I was in turns tearful, angry and nauseated. I wanted things to go a certain way (i.e., for the GG to tell Stephen Harper that he would have to face the non-confidence vote scheduled for today, December 8th, and deal with the consequences.) I was depending on this outcome for my happiness, and when it didn't happen, I suffered. I brought this suffering on myself, by expecting and hoping and wishing for a certain outcome. I had even built this up in my head to the point that I felt that everyone who wished for a different outcome than me was wrong. This lead to yet more suffering.
How to balance these things? How to be engaged and interested in political matters without becoming dependent on or attached to certain outcomes? How to be vocal and enthusiastic while not putting all one's emotional eggs in one basket?
I have no answer to this one. I have not yet found the balance point between engagement and entanglement, certainly not when it comes to the political leadership of this country I live in. Venerable Wuling wrote a few days ago about ancient Bodhisattvas and how they used 'window shopping' to hone their meditative abilities: while they looked at all the items on display in the bazaar, they were able to not be tempted by them. Perhaps the answer lies in there somewhere - in seeing political outcomes as similar to items put up for sale. I can pick them up and look them over, checking out their component parts and their price tags. And I can put them back down again, informed but not hooked.
If this is the case, then I will have to give up the one defense mechanism I had so far developed to cope with political disappointment - turning away from the fray. Instead, I will have to return to the 'bazaar' world of politics and practice looking things over until I am no longer tempted to latch on to one outome or another. That's not going to be easy.
Cartoon courtesy Dharma Cat