Attached and detached

floating plastic

What if I were to suggest that you only had one problem?
That all the frustrations, heartaches, anger, doubts, failures, and unhappiness that you may experience, all have the same origin. And that all the problems that everyone else face are also different facets of the same one and only issue. You would probably think that I am out of my mind. Well, the chapter of the book I am currently reading just suggested that.

Before I go on, you probably want to know what that central problem is. Put simply; it is something to do with the mind movie and our attachment to how things should be. We are constantly projecting an imaginary version of the world and ourselves on our internal screen and don’t understand why things turn out differently. It is a constant misunderstanding. As a child, we tend to be quite flexible and are less attached to how things should be. When we make our first steps, and we fall, we simply cry and pick ourselves up and continue. But as we get older, we hold on so much to our internal imaginary world that we tend to find it much harder to pick ourselves up when things go wrong. We are all different, and some of us are better at picking ourselves up than others, and it probably depends on how attached we are to what is at stake.

It is a complex issue, and I will only brush at it on the surface with a simple example. After hearing that Bali had some of the most spectacular coral reefs and biodiverse sea-life spots in the world, we went on a day excursion to go snorkelling off the small island of Menjangan. It is hard to describe my horror when I saw how much plastic rubbish was floating on the surface of the water. What was the most difficult thing for me to accept was the contrast between the layer of the manmade drifting junk and the bountiful and colourful backdrop of the natural underwater world. It took me a long time before I could enjoy my time underwater as I was so attached to how pristine this place should have looked.

My son was faster to adjust and managed to ignore the floating waste and rejoiced in the beauty of the fish and kept on pointing at different amazing spots. The more attached to a different reality one is the harder it is to be with what is in front of us. It is not that we should be so detached as to ignore the tragedy of a situation, but rather not to be blinded by it and to stay with the facts. There is a definite issue with plastic, and I do not wish to speak about it on this post. However, when I look back at the photos,  I am surprised, given my intention to document how bad it was, to see how little plastic I captured. It made me wonder how much worse I had made it in my mind’s image.

It is healthy to have an open mind, and if, one day, someone suggests that every problem you have is the same one in disguise, look at it, stay with it and find out if it is true. Does it hold up to your reality?

When I first heard of this idea, I got very interested in it – it sounded real. Then paradoxically, I got quite attached to the concept. On further inspection, I realised that I was absorbed by the idea and projected it on my mind movie. In a metaphorical way,  I focused on the floating plastic that was in front of me. Using the advice this idea came with, I detached myself from the projection and became more conscious of the beautiful fish and sea-life that was surrounding me.


One sentence journal – day 17:
“The nights are very short; I could blame it on the month of June but I simply need more sleep.”

This blog is part of a renewed 42-day writing challenge inspired by Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits Book.
Photo: Loic Lopez