My coworker just taught me a Buddhist practice to combat what they call “attachment.” I’ve mentioned the concept of attachment before – that we mistake it often for love but it is really a poison in disguise. Attachment to anything – a person, belonging, idea, etc – overtakes our minds and often we obsess over the object of our attachment. For someone like me with clinically obsessive thoughts and a probably-clinical hatred of bodily functions….well, we’ll see how this goes.
Definition: Exaggerated not wanting to be separated from someone or something. (Exact opposite of Aversion) Because the label of “pleasant” is very relative and based upon limited information, Attachment includes an aspect of exaggeration or “projection”.
Near “enemy” (or not to be confused with): Real appreciation, love and compassion.
Opposite: Wanting to be separated from someone or something: aversion.
Main quality: exaggeration of positive qualities, which can only lead to disappointment. Falling in love will usually fit very well in this category. (from View on Buddhism)
The practice my coworker was telling me about, in regards to attachment toward a person, consists of contemplation: sit and mediate on that thing that has such hold over your thoughts. Now think of all of the disgusting, feral aspects of that person. Imagine them without skin. See all of the sinews and blood and guts that make up their body. Think of mucus, of odor, of bowel movements and eye sockets.
I’m not kidding. This is a real practice (it came up because a patient down the hall has a disgusting hacking cough right now) and honestly, I guess I can see how it works. I’d like to know how permanent the images these meditation conjure would be….I don’t want to think of bodily fluids every time his name pops up on my phone. But then again, maybe I do, right?
Break the cycle. New associations. Turn my brain off of that thought and start the process of replacing it….I guess I can replace it with something else altogether once the initial obsession has broken. Maybe…emptiness? I don’t really have this Buddhism thing down…
“One man can conquer a thousand times thousand men in battle,
but one who conquers himself is the greatest of conquerors.”
The following antidotes can be applied throughout daily life, but are profound meditation exercises as well.
ANTIDOTE 1 – Observe Yourself: Do I exaggerate positive qualities of things I am attached to, are they really worth all my troubles? Is it really worth to work hard for days, weeks or months to have an hour of fun?
ANTIDOTE 2 – Use Your Inner Wisdom: Discover how exaggerated attachment is and how desire works against oneself. Try to be wiser than the monkey and let go of the candy to be free.
ANTIDOTE 3 – Reflect on the Unsatisfactory Nature of Existence. This is also called the First Noble Truth. How much fun is fun really, and how much is it forgetting the pain? Do desires ever stop or is it an endless job to fulfil them?
ANTIDOTE 4 – Reflect on Impermanence. How important is the person or object: everything will end someday, people die, things break.
ANTIDOTE 5 – Reflect on the Problems of Attachment. Lying in the sun is great, but it quickly leads to sunburn. Eating nice food is great, but it leads to indigestion and obesity. Driving around in big cars is great, but how long do I have to work to enjoy this?
ANTIDOTE 6 – Reflect on bodily attraction (lust for sex). Loving someone is great, but what happens when the “honeymoon-days” are over? But what is the body really? What more is it than a skin bag filled with bones, flesh, disgusting organs and fluids?
ANTIDOTE 7 – Reflect on the Results of Attachment. Greed and craving lead to stealing and all kinds of crime, including war. Addiction to alcohol and drugs are simply forms of strong craving; they destroy the addict and the surroundings. Uncontrolled lust leads to sexual abuse. The feeling of greed, craving and lust in themselves can be easily seen as forms of suffering.
ANTIDOTE 8 – Reflect on Death. What are all objects of attachment worth at “the moment of truth” or death?
ANTIDOTE 9 – Emptiness. The ultimate antidote to attachment and all other negative emotions is the realisation of emptiness.