Attachment and the Nature of Suffering

Attachment and the Nature of Suffering

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I’ve been thinking about this Buddha quote for the last few days as I have been getting rid of our possessions.  After the first donation load was dropped off, I felt physically lighter, happier. Liberated. To be honest, it felt so good that I can’t wait to get rid of the rest of it.

This hasn’t been the first significant purge we’ve experienced. Before coming here to Texas, I got rid of everything that didn’t fit into one POD.  We even got rid of a vehicle and trailer. There have been many important purges during our marriage. Some forced upon us by circumstance, some to make relocation easier, and some by choice. I’ve noticed that each time I purge, I let go of more than just things.  I am lighter. I am happier. Things don’t bother me as much. I have learned so much from letting go.

This is what I’ve learned about possessions so far:

  1. We hold onto things because we fear hurting others. We are often gifted with things that do not fit us and we feel obligated to accept them. A friend recently told me how a parent was constantly giving her things, large items that cluttered the home and made her living areas unlivable. She felt burdened by it but felt that she couldn’t say, “no” for fear of hurting the person’s feelings. Instead she hid in her bedroom away from the things that only choked the life from her. Hers is an extreme case, but we often hold onto things for the same reasons. We are robbed of living a life we are meant to live, that we want to live, because we fear saying, “no.”
  2. organizing-457785__340We hold onto things that no longer fit who we are. We need to try many new things in order to self-actualize.  To grow, we need to outgrow things and we don’t always let ourselves to this. I had acquired many hobbies, as well as large amounts of tools and supplies, over the years. I didn’t have time to enjoy all of my hobbies.  I eventually realized that I felt burdened by all the stuff going unused, so much that I eventually stopped enjoying any of my hobbies. I eventually admitted to myself that I kept up many of these hobbies because I felt obligated to continue them.  I had invested time and money into these things; I couldn’t let all of that go to waste! Right? But they were going to waste. And that burden prevented me from realizing which of those hobbies would bring me joy….and doing them.
  3. We hold onto things for a future that doesn’t exist.  We dream about the future we want and acquire things that fit that future.  Sometimes that future works out, but more often, it does not.  And yet we hold onto stuff, still hoping it will all work out. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve acquired and held onto for the time when I would have a family of my own. Well, there were never any children to read to.  And there are no children to pass heirlooms on to. So much stuff tied into a dream. And I realized that holding onto those things kept me mired in that dream, rather than focusing on what is.
  4. photo-256889__340We hold onto things so we won’t forget. This point requires it’s own post or two (or twenty).  But basically, this is what is at the heart of most hoarding.  It’s about the fear of loss. Losing connection, losing happiness, losing self.  It reminds us of who we were, and keeps us there. This is living in the past, and again, prevents us from focusing and living in what is.
  5. We hold onto things because of worldly expectations. It doesn’t matter if the expectations we are trying to meet are imposed on us by others or by ourselves, the result is the same. This prevents us from discovering what is really important for ourselves.


This next adventure is forcing us to prioritize our life in ways we have never had to before. As I come across each item in my home, I ask myself if I have it for any of the reasons above.  If so, it goes.  A lot of it is easy, but there are a few things I have that make me feel like my heart is being ripped from my chest when I contemplate letting them go.  A couple of quilts I made for Alan’s children are the ones that hurt the worst to think about. I still haven’t decided what to do about them.

If I let them go, will the pain go away?  I guess I’m not quite ready to let that suffering go yet.

I expect our upcoming minimalist experience will change us profoundly.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to succeed full detachment with things, but I hope that I’ll get closer to it and the letting go that brings peace. And though I know that there is much I still don’t know, I deeply feel that there is no going back. Things will never be the same again. And I’m glad.



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