Confused about attachment

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Confused about attachment

Postby learningsumthing » Thu Jun 23, 2011 6:54 am

Hey guys,
I'm completely new to Buddhism, and I've recently started to explore the concepts that it teaches in hopes to find a more fulfilling, happy life. I have a question about the concept of attachment. I'm aware that Buddhism teaches that attachment leads to suffering, so I've been working on it, but I'm starting to feel slightly depressed.
I began examining one aspect of my life that gives me both the biggest joys and troubles - my relationship with others (friends, etc.) I love people, but I began to feel that my motives for wanting to see friends, etc. was to fill a void rather than to enjoy their company. I used to love to see my friends for the sake of seeing them, but for whatever reason I began to feel pressure from society to have a certain number of friends, to have a certain kind of relationship..the list goes on and on. This has only led to me NEEDING them rather than WANTING them. I began to feel like a people pleaser and validation from others became the center of my life. I realized I was attached in an unhealthy way.
So I made a vow to try to detach myself. But that has only led me to isolate myself from others. I feel that I really want to connect with others on a fundamental level (I feel this is a healthy desire), but I'm not sure that I can keep my intentions "pure" once I begin outreaching to others again. But remaining in isolation certainly can't be the right thing to do.
So what is the concept of attachment here? How can I still connect with others, and pursue my healthy desires while staying "detached".

I hope I was clear enough. Thanks, any advice would be much appreciated.
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby alpha » Thu Jun 23, 2011 9:32 am

Do not go down the path of creating guilt for being with your friends.

I would try to enjoy my social connections if i was you in a way in wich you do not create harm to others.
If you take this as your primal motivation i think it would be a good point to start from.

every interaction you have is motivated by a wish to do good and not harm.
But a mind which is not trained will not be able to distinguish very easily between these two things.And that is why you will need to study and be guided by someone who is familiar with the workings of the mind.This is the moment when you seek out a teacher to guide you...

But in the beginning you do your best...
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby udawa » Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:36 pm

learningsumthing wrote:Hey guys,
I'm aware that Buddhism teaches that attachment leads to suffering, so I've been working on it, but I'm starting to feel slightly depressed.
.


Perhaps one way of thinking about this is to rephrase your initial question: the problem is that we are attached to confusion. And to remove that confusion we need to follow the path of Dharma, which includes training in behaviour, meditation and wisdom. There are many different approaches to be found within the Buddhist tradition and you probably need to have a look around to find the approach that most appeals to you, and go from there.

D
Edwards: You are a philosopher. Dr Johnson: I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but, I don't know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in.
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Jun 23, 2011 1:26 pm

You have a lot of stuff going on!
I think what you are experiencing is actually something that a lot of people go through. But it also sounds, from what you are saying, that you also see what is really going on in your life, and this is really good! You need to be really honest with yourself about what you want. You should also take a look at your own feelings of self-worth and confidence.

A lot of times, we seek out relationships, both casual as well as intimate, it order to fill in the big gaps in our life. It's kind of like window putty, that you use to caulk in all the holes in the wood around the glass. When it works, it keeps all the warmth in and we feel good. But people are not window putty, and at some point either they lose interest or we see that we haven't really established a real relationship at all. A lot of marriages start out this way. "I need you to make my life whole!" they say, and then two people sew themselves together emotionally, like Frankenstein, trying to create one whole person. No wonder it hurts when they split up later on!

When Buddhists discuss non-attachment, it doesn't really mean that we try to be indifferent, or become cold to the world or to other people, or to shut ourselves off. The fact is, everybody is constantly changing. You are changing and so is everybody that you know. Everything is in movement and the Buddhist approach is to observe that constant change, to observe that movement, and not to "freeze-frame" the way we relate to the world, because as soon as you try to solidify things, to stop time, this leads to problems. So, we try not to be attached to any idea of solidity.

Practicing simple sitting (shamatha or calm abiding) meditation for a few minutes a day is a really good way for you to start working on your situation. You deserve to give yourself 5 or 10 minutes a day to just sit and watch your breathing in and out. Add a minute or two every day, and what is likely to happen is that as you increase the time you sit, you will notice that your mind feels restless. The reason why meditation is a good method here, is because that restlessness is actually that feeling of NEEDING that you describe. And that needing comes from that habit of wanting to solidify things. But as you sit and let that restlessness play itself out, look what happens--that feeling of being needy, of wanting others to validate your own life, that starts to be replaced by a real sense of calmness and confidence. So, you are already on the right track.

There are probably a lot of places to learn shamatha meditation, online or in books, but (naturally) I would advise finding a teacher if possible, one who can give you useful instructions. If you can't find any near you, I am sure there are some people here who have taught basic meditation before, who would be happy to work with you on the basics of posture, focus and so forth.
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby justsit » Thu Jun 23, 2011 1:50 pm

Some good basic meditation instruction here.
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby LastLegend » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:10 pm

How can you detach while still maintaining social interaction?

Well there is suffering and you have to embrace suffering wholeheartedly and not afraid to experience suffering. Do you have the courage to do this? This is how you stand up.

There is suffering
The cause of suffering is attachment

1) Observe constantly your mental reactions and figure out what makes you suffer.

What you think and do is what makes you suffer. Change false thinking/view and false actions as these bring suffering.

Until you are ready to decide to beat suffering, continue to suffer. Suffering is not bad at all. You need it, without it, you would not want peace.

So when suffer enough to want to end your suffering, then we can talk.

2) It is fine to have friends...but on your own you should also be able to do fine. Otherwise you are dependent on them which is not good. So realistically, you have to train yourself to be on your own independently. They cannot be there with you for the rest of your life. So be independent, and willing to endure suffering.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:54 pm

learningsumthing wrote:Hey guys,
I'm completely new to Buddhism, and I've recently started to explore the concepts that it teaches in hopes to find a more fulfilling, happy life. I have a question about the concept of attachment. I'm aware that Buddhism teaches that attachment leads to suffering, so I've been working on it, but I'm starting to feel slightly depressed.
I began examining one aspect of my life that gives me both the biggest joys and troubles - my relationship with others (friends, etc.) I love people, but I began to feel that my motives for wanting to see friends, etc. was to fill a void rather than to enjoy their company. I used to love to see my friends for the sake of seeing them, but for whatever reason I began to feel pressure from society to have a certain number of friends, to have a certain kind of relationship..the list goes on and on. This has only led to me NEEDING them rather than WANTING them. I began to feel like a people pleaser and validation from others became the center of my life. I realized I was attached in an unhealthy way.
So I made a vow to try to detach myself. But that has only led me to isolate myself from others. I feel that I really want to connect with others on a fundamental level (I feel this is a healthy desire), but I'm not sure that I can keep my intentions "pure" once I begin outreaching to others again. But remaining in isolation certainly can't be the right thing to do.
So what is the concept of attachment here? How can I still connect with others, and pursue my healthy desires while staying "detached".

I hope I was clear enough. Thanks, any advice would be much appreciated.


That's a real breakthrough there, friend. Most never do the kind of analysis you did.
However, take note that detachment is not emotional distance. In Buddhism we have a lot going on regarding compassion, empathetic joy, loving kindness and so on.
You can approach them with positive intentions while working on the flawed aspects of those relations.
Attachment and repulsion come from fundamental ignorance, called avidya which is not simply lack of information but a warped perception of reality, and they spring from the illusion of the true existence of a self. If I were you, I'd look into that a little longer down the road.
Let me just recommend you a site that you may find of somehelp:
http://www.bodhicitta.net/The%20Practic ... pening.htm

Best wishes.
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby Quiet Heart » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:52 pm

learningsumthing wrote:Hey guys,
I'm completely new to Buddhism, and I've recently started to explore the concepts that it teaches in hopes to find a more fulfilling, happy life. I have a question about the concept of attachment. I'm aware that Buddhism teaches that attachment leads to suffering, so I've been working on it, but I'm starting to feel slightly depressed.
I began examining one aspect of my life that gives me both the biggest joys and troubles - my relationship with others (friends, etc.) I love people, but I began to feel that my motives for wanting to see friends, etc. was to fill a void rather than to enjoy their company. I used to love to see my friends for the sake of seeing them, but for whatever reason I began to feel pressure from society to have a certain number of friends, to have a certain kind of relationship..the list goes on and on. This has only led to me NEEDING them rather than WANTING them. I began to feel like a people pleaser and validation from others became the center of my life. I realized I was attached in an unhealthy way.
So I made a vow to try to detach myself. But that has only led me to isolate myself from others. I feel that I really want to connect with others on a fundamental level (I feel this is a healthy desire), but I'm not sure that I can keep my intentions "pure" once I begin outreaching to others again. But remaining in isolation certainly can't be the right thing to do.
So what is the concept of attachment here? How can I still connect with others, and pursue my healthy desires while staying "detached".

I hope I was clear enough. Thanks, any advice would be much appreciated.

-----------------------------------------------
:smile:
You are confused about what is meant by "Detachment". It does not mean removing yourself from all normal human relationships, as in not having friends. and relatinships
"Detachment" should mean avoiding those relationships and friendships that might somehow cause the other person suffering.
Specifically, in your case, examine each of your friendships MINDFULLY. That means to consider whether that relationship is primarily for YOUR benefit or for your friend's benefit? In particular, does your friendship cause that other person suffering?
If that is the case either terminate that relationship, or find a way to change it so it BENEFITS the other person.
Just use the criteria...if it benefits primarily myself I do not do it....if it benefits primarily another person I may do it.
Or another way to put it is...cause no deliberate suffering to others.
Just apply that rule to each situation, and be MINDFUL of the consequences and purpose of your acts.
If you follow that rule, you will have made a good start.
:smile:
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
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The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby Kyosan » Thu Jun 23, 2011 9:53 pm

learningsumthing wrote:.....I love people, but I began to feel that my motives for wanting to see friends, etc. was to fill a void rather than to enjoy their company. I used to love to see my friends for the sake of seeing them, but for whatever reason I began to feel pressure from society to have a certain number of friends, to have a certain kind of relationship..the list goes on and on. This has only led to me NEEDING them rather than WANTING them. I began to feel like a people pleaser and validation from others became the center of my life. I realized I was attached in an unhealthy way.....

I agree with you. That is not the reason why you should see friends.

learningsumthing wrote:.....So I made a vow to try to detach myself. But that has only led me to isolate myself from others. I feel that I really want to connect with others on a fundamental level (I feel this is a healthy desire), but I'm not sure that I can keep my intentions "pure" once I begin outreaching to others again. But remaining in isolation certainly can't be the right thing to do.....

I think you understand that detachment doesn't mean isolating yourself from others. Detachment could lead to isolating yourself from certain people, if the relationship has a negative influence on yourself or the other person. And as you become a more detached and spiritually oriented person, your interests might change and you might not share the same interests as your current set of friends. For that reason, you might break off some relationships and form new ones.

learningsumthing wrote:.....So what is the concept of attachment here? How can I still connect with others, and pursue my healthy desires while staying "detached".....

This is something that is easier said than done. Compassion for others is considered healthy in Buddhism. If you can be the kind of person who has empathy for others, you will have friends. You will be able to connect with others, even though you don't always agree with them. Compassion is something that we as Buddhists continually have to work on.

learningsumthing wrote:....I hope I was clear enough.....

You were very clear.
:namaste:
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby learningsumthing » Fri Jun 24, 2011 7:42 am

Dear everyone, thank you so much for all your responses. I'm so grateful for you guys willing to help me. I'm in the process of processing your advice, but in the meantime, I have a few more questions to ask.
I think I understand intellectually/rationally that NEEDING my friends is the wrong idea. I think I'm AWARE of some of the incorrect beliefs I've held...but it's one thing to understand it, and it's a whole different game to apply the principles. I have MAJOR issues with controlling my thoughts. It's a recent phenomenon, and I think it started from all this analysis of my thoughts and behavior. It's made me self-conscious and its filled me with doubt about myself and my perception of reality (which is the underlying issue for my attachment to validation of others, I feel). I started analyzing my behavior/thoughts AS THEY WERE HAPPENING, first consciously, but now it's a process that just happens automatically. It's so bad I don't remember the last time I lived in the present (I'll constantly ask myself "What's the point?" or "Am I doing this correctly") and I don't remember what "flow" feels like.
I'm assuming the best practice to learn to control the mind would be meditation, and I will begin doing some research on how to meditate. When you say "teacher", do you mean to visit a Buddhist temple? Since I'm new to Buddhism, I haven't really digested the religious principles yet, and I'm not sure if I'm ready to commit to believing in its religious concepts...I want to take things one step at a time.

Also, I realize I need to be able to be independent, and the relationships I have with others should be filled with compassion. How about in the following scenario? I have a friend whose behaviors really annoy me. He's really blunt and critical, but I know behind his words, there isn't any harm meant. I've brought up issues with him before, and I do feel he has become more mindful about certain things, but I'm beginning to feel it's just his overall nature. He doesn't have many friends and considers me one of his good friends. But nearly every interaction with him has given me a feeling of more and more hostility towards him - the sort of attitude that "I'm putting the effort to be your friend for your sake and this is how you treat me?!". I KNOW this isn't right - it's arrogant and I guess I'm attached to an expected outcome(?). But at the same time, just deciding to cut our relationship would seem a bit selfish..but would this be the best thing to do?

Thanks again everyone, any advice is much appreciated!!
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:57 pm

Looking at your thoughts and feelings is not quite the same as trying to second guess yourself.
Maybe just start by relaxing a little and try not to worry about what will happen.

Let me tell you a true story. I have a close friend, and she had a friend who suffered from diabetes, and her mother was very old, and she spent all of her time taking care of them, and she got a lot of satisfaction from it because it meant that she was really needed, she was important, and also this kept her preoccupied so she didn't have to think very much about personal issues such as low self-esteem, self doubt and so on. Well, the two people she was caring for passed away within a year of each other, and all of a sudden she felt all alone. And the irony of this story is that even though she was always giving, giving, giving, in a way, she was really taking, taking, taking, because she was, in a sense, using these suffering people in order to give herself a feeling of being needed and of being important. Well, maybe it was a fair trade while it lasted, but when it was over, emotionally she had nothing that she could call her own. Her self esteem died when they did.

I don't know, your story reminded me of that story. maybe it will ring a bell with you.

Speaking of ringing bells, you don't have to become a buddhist in any religious sense of the word in order to study mind-calming meditation. in fact, it is being taught widely in churches, business places, community recreation centers, and as I mentioned, someone here could probably give you the basics of sitting straight, relaxing your gaze, watching your breath and so forth, or someone might provide some useful links. For example, this YouTube video is a good introduction:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0NR1qcTGrY

As far as your friend goes, you will probably have to figure that out, but generally speaking, friendship shouldn't be a matter of effort.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby emptydreams » Fri Jul 08, 2011 12:41 pm

Attachment is simple: when something grabs away your attention from other things in your life and you cannot stop thinking about them, and that brings you great suffering when you're apart from it, thats attachment.
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby KeithBC » Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:50 am

learningsumthing wrote: I began to feel pressure from society to have a certain number of friends, to have a certain kind of relationship..the list goes on and on.

So, it sounds to me like the attachment that is causing the most problem is not to your friends, but to what society thinks of your relationships with them. How could society "pressure" you if you weren't attached to what it thinks?

I'm not saying what you should or shouldn't do with those relationships. Just remember that we often focus on superficial attachments and overlook the deeper ones.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Confused about attachment

Postby Silent Forest » Fri Jul 29, 2011 8:12 pm

learningsumthing wrote:So I made a vow to try to detach myself. But that has only led me to isolate myself from others.

I think it is important to be aware, that detachment is not about breaking connections but about not being dependent on what the other person thinks or may think if you would tell him what bothers you. I made the experience, that many people enjoy being with someone with a calm mind where they know that they get honest answers and can trust. Being honest in difficult situations doesn´t have to be offending and can even relationships more depth.
learningsumthing wrote:I've brought up issues with him before, and I do feel he has become more mindful about certain things, but I'm beginning to feel it's just his overall nature

Do you know if he has “a reason” to be like that? If it has some deeper reason it may be difficult for him to change and could take a few years. If it really hasn´t got any deeper meaning it could be easiest to translate it mentally to your language and accept that it´s just his way to speak. If it is what he thinks but he just overstates it may help to react with a counter question.
learningsumthing wrote:But nearly every interaction with him has given me a feeling of more and more hostility towards him - the sort of attitude that "I'm putting the effort to be your friend for your sake and this is how you treat me?!". I KNOW this isn't right - it's arrogant and I guess I'm attached to an expected outcome(?). But at the same time, just deciding to cut our relationship would seem a bit selfish..but would this be the best thing to do?

I know it sometimes is difficult, but it may be the best thing to do what *you believe* is best. At least if you make this decision with a calm mind and without expecting the friend to be thankful or to change instantaneously. If feeling hostility makes you not want to visit him I would suggest to reduce the contact that far, that you have some time to gain enough distance. The next time you meet you should be objective and mindful enough to handle it without feeling hostility (or at least reducing bad feelings form time to time). If you feel that this isn´t going to work it may be better to stop meeting the friend. It otherwise may break more than it helps and bring suffering to both. I don´t want to play psychologist or pretend to be a highly spiritually evolved person - this is just my own experience I made with a difficult person.
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