Question: “Hello!! I’m new to the path of spirituality and Buddhism and have a quick question! If we are able to no longer be attached to things, does that mean we do not feel or experience as emotions, positive or negative?”
It does not mean we do not feel or experience positive or negative emotions. Being free from attachment doesn’t mean letting go of all things and people, running off into the woods and living in a tree. When we first read and try to study “letting go of attachment,” many people fail to study deeper into the meaning of that. Because it tends to make it seem like Buddhists are heartless people that don’t have any cares or worries. That’s obviously not true.
What “letting go of attachment” actually means is learning to accept the eventual demise of things and people. People have a habit of seeing things and assuming it can last forever. When we are madly in love, we think we will forever be with this person and it will always last! When we live in a house, we think it is strong enough to keep us safe from disasters and harm. We buy a new fancy car, enjoying the newness and excitement of it.
But we fail to realize that our love for someone really won’t last forever, because we will all age, get sick, and die, and that feeling of love also dies with us. Our houses, even though big and strong, and can protect us from rain and heat, can’t always last against heavy storms or natural disasters. The new car, though brand new and powerful, will also eventually have to age, get maintenanced, and eventually be unrepairable.
So when we have the misconception of things being “forever,” we have a really difficult time coping when they are gone. We become sad, angry, and depressed. We yell and scream and blame the world. It’s okay to feel sad when a loved one passes or if a disaster happens, but we sometimes act and feel like it shouldn’t have or that it can’t be true. Blame is put on people or god when a loved one passes, when the blame is on us for not understanding and accepting that natural law of life and reality. If we can truly understand accept death and loss, it will be much easier for us to cope with when it happens. Our feelings of anger and blame will become acceptance and freedom.
Understanding and accepting freedom from attachment doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have loved ones or things. It means we should accept the fact that they won’t last forever. Everything is transient. Every rock, tree, ocean, and land is ephemeral. Even our own Earth will too one day disappear. Don’t dwell on the future, it hasn’t happened yet and don’t know what will happen. Instead, be present and mindful of your here and now, because that is where our joy is.
Smile and be well!