For our homework this month, we were instructed to make a list of our likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to see if we like ice cream or whatever – we’re intended to look critically at ourselves, at the attachments and aversions that hold us back in our spiritual practice. Attachment and aversion are actually two of the kleshas, or obstacles to achieving enlightenment; when one is focused on enjoying pleasant experiences or avoiding unpleasant ones, then that person won’t be focused on meditation. Pleasant things come and go, and so do unpleasant things, but the true Self remains unchanging and unaffected by momentary events. Plus, even if you’re not worried about spirituality, it’s a good idea to examine your attachments and aversions: what’s really so great about this? what bothers me so much about that? The answers could be surprising!
Here’s my list of attachments, with some commentary about each one.
I’m not sure if this falls under the category of “attachment” or “addiction”, but it seemed right to list it here. I used to have a much bigger issue with sweets – I could eat a whole bag of mini candy bars or an entire package of cookies (or, heck, raw cookie dough) in one sitting, just while watching TV or studying. I’ve worked hard to become more conscious of this and control it better. I purposely choose dark chocolates and try to avoid more processed sweets; I cut back on the sugar when I bake; I don’t keep many sweets in the house or at my desk at work; I’ll pack just four chocolates in my lunch and then space them out over the whole afternoon. Still, I find myself needing those little chocolates to get through the day, and when I don’t pack any I’ll sometimes have to make a candy run just to get by.
My husband, F
This is probably my biggest attachment. When we were first dating, F and I spent two years long distance, and I was constantly afraid that something would happen to keep us apart; now we’ve lived together for almost three years, but I still sometimes get that feeling, that our life together is somehow too good to be true and can’t last. Losing him is my worst fear.
When I was in grad school I was broke. I worked three jobs and my parents put money into my bank account every month. I had a roommate and an affordable apartment, and I lived cheaply, keeping careful track of every penny, but I still couldn’t afford many things. I would patch my jeans repeatedly because I couldn’t afford new pants, and a hot date out was a milkshake from Burger King. Now that I’m older, I have a lot more expenses (mortgage, house bills, car payments), but I also make a lot more money than I ever did before, and so I have a lot more financial freedom to buy clothes, shoes, organic food at the grocery store, and nice dinners out. I know it shouldn’t matter but I feel really averse to losing these things. I remember how it felt when I couldn’t buy pants – pants! Kind of necessary! And I don’t want to go back to that. I’m definitely more loose in my spending than I could be, but part of me feels like the reward of getting to where I am should be that I don’t have to count my pennies anymore. On the other hand, although I do give to charity, and pretty generously, I always feel like I should be doing more, that I’m selfish with my money. The other issue with this attachment to a comfortable lifestyle is that it means I need to stay in my current job – for financial reasons, I don’t feel I can leave my job unless I find another job that will pay me comparably. But more on worklife when we get to aversions.