Recently I spent a couple of days helping Rhiannon sort out and pack her belongings in preparation for moving from her own flat back to our house for an unknown period of time. Our house is fairly small, and in her eight year absence we’ve spilled over into the extra space. Meanwhile she has accumulated many, very useful, possessions.
Now it was time to say: that won’t be needed again, so it must go; that’s worn out, so it goes too; that’s really useful, but I don’t need it while I’m sharing, so we’ll have to find somewhere to store it. The once-read never to be re-read novels went; the worn-out clothes went; the electrical kettle needs to be stored.
At my end I was finally motivated (and fortunately had the energy) to sort out boxes and boxes of guide paperwork that I’d saved for years. If I haven’t used the activity in ten years I’m not likely to now – it can go. I’d saved magazines for ideas, but I’m never short of ideas, and there’s the internet now, so the cupboard was emptied of magazines (I could hardly move the recycling bin afterwards!).
All good practice of non-attachment to things.
But non-attachment is not just about our attachment to things. It is not, I feel, primarily about throwing things out.
In considering the ‘things’, I find I’ve also been considering what else I’m attached to.
I’m attached to routines, to ways of doing things. There is nothing wrong with routines per se. They can save a lot of wasted effort and avoid me forgetting details. Getting up, washing, dressing, eating breakfast, getting to work – all hugely easier with a regular routine. But if something unusual crops up, be it a problem (eg can’t walk properly this morning), or a delight (how about a day out while the weather is so lovely), being too attached to a routine can be a problem eg I can’t go out with my friends this evening because I always go to bed at 9.30pm; eat my meal at 6pm; or whatever. I need to be able to let go. I may have a routine for housework; or food purchasing; or going to meeting for worship. But I need to be able to let go; to let someone else do it; to leave it undone; to do something different.
Then I started to think about emotional attachments, and attachments to people. Am I too possessive? Too keen to be in control? I need to let people around me have their own space. I like to think I’m available to listen, but maybe people don’t need to talk. I want to ensure that the guide unit continues, but I need to let others run the activities; devise the programme; learn by doing for themselves. I need to ask for help, but not be too demanding; to be grateful for support and company, but remain as independent as possible; to accept the disabilities that come and go without being too attached to my abilities or my disabilities.
The more I think about non-attachment the clearer it is that it’s a lot more than throwing out some old junk.