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!
On Tuesday I posted the first few of my attachments. Here are a couple more.
I definitely feel like I have major issues with my physical appearance. From a yogic perspective, physical appearance means nothing – we just do these yoga poses to make the body strong, so we can sit in meditation, and having Michelle Obama arms or looking hot in Dancer pose has nothing to do with it. But I constantly feel myself getting caught up in concerns about my looks. Maybe it’s because I was a nerdy kid. I made a big effort to change my appearance and the way others perceive me when I entered high school: I grew out my perm, got contacts, and it made a huge difference in my social life and even in the way I perceived myself. Maybe that’s where I got the idea that external appearance is linked to internal self. Another factor, I think, is that I went to Catholic school and had to wear a uniform, so that when I did get to wear normal clothes, I would agonize for ages over what I was going to wear. I don’t think I learned how to get dressed the way that other kids maybe did. Whatever, appearance is big with me, whether it’s weight, clothes, physical fitness, signs of aging, all of it.
I feel really attached to sleep. This sounds stupid but really isn’t. I’ve read that getting enough sleep is critical to daily happiness and even to personal relationships, because we treat others better when we feel better ourselves. For me, my sleep issue is pretty childish: I don’t want to get up before 6 am. It’s bad enough that it’s dark out at 6 am, don’t make me get up at 5. This was actually a pretty big factor in me turning down a job a few years ago (and I don’t think I’ve ever confessed to anyone what a big factor it was) – the job was 8-5, and there was a long commute, so I would’ve had to get up at 5:00 to be there on time. I took a 9-5 job instead. I guess the flip side of not wanting to get up early is that I don’t like to go to bed early either; it’s just not part of my natural rhythm. 9:30 pm is about the earliest I can go to bed, and if I go to bed any earlier I just lay there. There are things I enjoy doing in the morning – I like going running or doing yoga, and it’s such a great feeling when it’s 7:00 am and that’s already done! But don’t push it. I know that at some point if I have a child I will likely be getting up very early every day, but honestly, not much besides a screaming infant seems worth it.
Next time: my aversions! Don’t worry, I’m the kind of person who tends to like things rather than hate things, so I have fewer aversions than attachments.