Why acceptance and non-attachment are the keys to ending your suffering
Photo By: Brooke Shaden
There are numerous methods to eclipse suffering. However, before we can transcend it, we must first admit that we suffer. It is a common condition that all people share. Often, it is used in reference to being a component of the “Human Condition.” What exactly is the “Human Condition?” The Merriam-Webster definition is “part of being a person.” There are many parts of being a person. One element that is common to all people is that they suffer. To live is to suffer. Now many would consider that depressing. I do not. What I consider depressing is that we spend so much of our time during our lives ignoring this simple fact. When we accept and then detach, we can overcome suffering.
Why do we suffer?
To live is to die which is the title of a Metallica song but it is also a cold hard fact. The moment we leave the womb we are marching toward the end. When we are young, we tend to think at least unconsciously that we will live forever. Unfortunately, that is just not the case. The clock is ticking, and it never stops. Our time is limited. We should not waste it. There is a great app for the Chrome browser called Death Clock. What the death clock does is calculate the remaining time you have left on this planet based on the average lifespan of men and women living in developed countries. When you open your browser or a new tab, it will let you know to the second what remaining time is available to you. It is a great reminder to value your time.
Ignorance of impermanence and time is a vital ingredient of suffering. This may be more on an unconscious level, but some part of us knows the clock is ticking. This is mainly speculation on my part but as you age these thoughts come to the surface with greater frequency. Along with this none of us know what will happen when that clock stops ticking. We have beliefs and hopes, but no one knows for sure. It is all a mystery.
Along with ignorance, another crucial factor of our suffering is that your brain is not wired to be happy. It is wired to keep you alive and survive above all other functions. Survival usually does not translate into bliss. At least not on a continual basis. We are dealing with technology that is millions of years in the making through mostly failed experiments and mutations. Given those odds happiness or peace of mind would seem to be a quest in vain. However, as King Arthur discovered in his quest for the Holy Grail, the Holy Grail exists inside you.
The twelve step programs say the first step is acceptance. You have to accept that you have a suffering problem. Once you accept this, then you can seek solutions to your suffering challenge. There are many programs, philosophies, religions, and methods to cure the human condition. You must find one that works for you. Find one that will ring your bell and keep ringing it. You may discover that a particular method ceases to provide relief. Then find another. Find a way. What tends to happen is that we do all these practices and rituals to help ourselves, and once we start feeling contentment over a period of time we stop and go back to unconscious living and wonder why we feel discontent. Keep practicing. Keep playing the game. There is no prize at the end you just start enjoying the game.
All the wise men and women over the centuries have always discussed the importance of detachment or non-attachment. What does that mean? When I began the “Revelation and Transformation” stage of my hero’s journey I never completely understood what that means on either an intellectual or experiential level. I still struggle with it at times, but I am beginning to understand it on both levels. What non-attachment translates into is to not hold on or to let go on an emotional level. Let go completely, do not identify with the thoughts and subsequent emotions. It is not necessarily material items or people that you let go of, but your emotional attachment to them. It does not mean that you do not care and you become some automaton. I means you realize that what you are attempting to hold on to has already passed. The moment has come and gone. Impermanence is the game. Everything is in constant flux and change. On a subatomic level, the electrons and protons are constantly going in and out of existence. Birth, life, death, rebirth. So the only thing that you are holding on to is your thoughts about a particular situation or event. The event came and went the second it occurred. We only have the present moment. It is challenging to live in the present moment on a continual basis. The old technology that composes the base part of your brain or the reptilian brain has little interest in the present moment. We have to practice and develop the mental habits of living in the present, acceptance, and non-attachment so that this is occurring on an unconscious level. Unfortunately, that takes time and effort.
Whatever method you choose to help end your suffering it would be advisable to choose one that emphasizes acceptance and non-attachment. Without these two components, your relief will be temporary.