Tuesday, September 30, 2008


(Posted by Rick Von Feldt on behalf of Jennifer)

1. What are you attached to that may ultimately be providing more pain, suffering or negative than than pleasure and benefit? And why do you continue to stay attached?

A 19th century author by the name of George MacDonald, many of whose books I read in high school, wrote, “The cause of all discomfort and strife is never that we are too near others, but that we are not near enough.” That’s always been my modus operandi. Of course, attachment sometimes causes pain, especially when one loses what one is attached to. But as long as one acknowledges and accepts the possibility of loss, without agonizing over it, one can be happy and grow in a state of attachment in ways that detachment does not inspire.

I am also quite attached to things, like my books, for example, which number in the thousands and surround me now. I channel their power and inspiration as I write, and I cherish them because they remind me how I became who I am. I am very attached to my photos, because they also help me remember, and I love remembering. I will be a very happy old lady, sitting in my rocking chair and smiling fondly.

Hmmm, this question has made me think as I write, but I suppose I’ve never responded spiritually to the Buddhist notion of “attachment as suffering.” Perhaps I interpret attachment more as “connection,” rather than “clinging.”

2. Does your “attachment score” at the following survey indicate anything important about your feelings on attachment?

I am “securely attached,” according to the attachment survey, which I suspected. I find it interesting that the explanation of my score reads, “Previous research on attachment styles indicates that secure people tend to have relatively enduring and satisfying relationships.” I find, rather, that people who have relatively enduring and satisfying relationships tend to be secure.

3. Is someone too attached to you?
My family and especially my children are attached to me, but appropriately so, I believe. I enjoy watching my children become more independent, however. I’m not one of the hold-too-tight kind of moms. I try to give them roots so that they’ll feel secure enough to try their wings.

4. Share your thoughts on the following quote: “"Suffering finds its roots in your desire to be free from something that's either present for you right now or something that you fear may be present for you in the future . . . Your suffering is directly proportional to the intensity of your attachments to these passing phenomena and to the strength of your habit of seeking for some kind of personal identity in the world of forms." - Chuck Hillig

Well, I’m ignoring the second part of this quotation, because I don’t think I really get it. However, I do believe that fear is what really causes suffering. When that which we fear comes to pass, we must simply keep living and deal with it or decide that life is too painful to keep living, but regardless, we cannot fear it anymore. It’s the anticipation of suffering which truly causes the suffering. The only thing I really fear, I suppose, is madness. I like to be in control of my life, and madness is the ultimate loss of control. Or maybe even worse – to be thought mad by others when I am not. Not that I’m worried; in other words, it doesn’t cause me suffering. I suppose I’ve just read too many stories by 19th century women writers, and as a woman, I feel somewhat vulnerable at times.

5. Are you able to get rid of the life you’ve planned, so you can have the life that is waiting for you?

I’m a planner. I carry with me everywhere a little black book with my schedule and my lists of things to do, books to read, presents to buy, classes to take, dissertation topics to consider. I start buying Christmas gifts in January. My husband and I have a seven-year capital improvements plan for our household. When I was pregnant with my first child, we took a very intense childbirth education class and developed a two-page single-spaced birth plan. Even when things didn’t go as planned with child number one, we had a similarly detailed birth plan for child number two. My sister looks at my calendar and remarks, “If I had your life, I’d kill myself.”

For a long time, because of comments like my sister’s, I beat myself up for being too structured and rigid, unable to be spontaneous and live in the moment. I’ve certainly challenged myself to become more flexible – traveling with Up With People was certainly a year that challenged me in this area; being married and having children has definitely obliged me to accept different ways of doing things; and the universe has presented me with many opportunities to learn that I can’t plan everything, which I’ve finally accepted with as much grace as I can muster.
But being a parent has also reinforced my belief that structure is good. My kids do a lot better with regular meal and bed times. My ability to plan has allowed me to travel with children and balance having a family and being a full-time student. My skill with structure means that we live within our means, save for college and retirement, and take occasional vacations. Because I can live with schedules, I am able to be more environmentally responsible and take public transportation.
There are too many cool things to do in life, and I’ve decided that if I want to do them all, I have to fit them in my schedule. In order to be able to take advantage of those moments of true spontaneity, in order to be responsive when things change, I have to be prepared. I must have the money saved to take a last-minute trip to somewhere wonderful. I have to do my research if I want to be able to think on my feet when I’m teaching a class or speaking publicly. I need to know what the consequences will be if I have to make quick decisions about medical care. I have to pack a good lunch if I want to go on an adventurous hike. The life that is waiting for me is the life that I dream about, reach for, and then plan for. In other words, there’s a time and a place for spontaneity. :-)

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