In the western world we are encouraged to be proactive.
I was told at a very early age that if I really wanted something I can go and get it for myself. (It’s not a bad idea to inspire a kid to live an interesting life when there’s a risk of that kid just watching TV all day!)
However, the “go out and get it” philosophy has its problematic areas. Always reacting, acting, striving and grasping can lead us to a very unsatisfactory place at times.
Here attachment doesn’t necessary mean a boy’s attachment to his mother. But it suggests our attachment to dysfunctional relationships, material possessions, societal positions, are the attachments that really make us unhappy.
The Buddha saw this as resulting from man seeing himself (or woman seeing herself) as apart from the outside world – as separate from that which they are attached to – which was dilusory.
All religions have at their core the unity of all things. And if everything is one – there’s no need to attach, to cling, to desire.
There’s no doubt that our desires make us unhappy. We want possessions, relationships, status. And, the clinging to the thought “if only I had so-and-so I would be happy” makes us miserable. And, we even know that once we achieve this so-and-so (the relationship, the job, the house) we will instantly start craving something else. And the attachment goes on.
What we need to realize (and it’s not easy) is a life free from attachment. Free from yearning for the things we want and free from running away from the things we don’t.
Non-attachment is realising the best place is the one you’re in at the moment and this will give us happiness, make us free from anxiety, engender compassion for other living beings and reduce stress.
Build up your yin energy
The concept of Yin and Yang – the opposing forces that make up the universe – has been central to Chinese Taoist philosophy for many millennia.
- Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime.
- Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime.
– Charles Osgood, From Yang and Yin to and or but
Living a modern existence with all its stresses, attachments and pressures can deplete your Yin resources and leave you feeling tired, stressed and depressed.
There’s just too much fast, hard, hot, aggressive Yang in your life. Sound familiar? How can we pacify our busy, stressful lives with cool, calm, yielding Yin?
These things – quiet walks in nature, meditation, breathing exercises, learning to relax parts of your body when they aren’t being used – can all help.
But, assuming the nature of Yin, as well, will also keep us more grounded. Yield more, become more passive in the face of aggression. Try humility in the face of arrogance. Why fight fire with fire?
What we can do
It may be an anathema to our western culture but let’s try to just go with the flow a bit more. Try to yield to the suffering in life and take it on the chin. Nobody told us it was going to be easy.