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Identity Is the Problem - Our Attachments Cause Pain

By: Michael Ketterhagen


“Raga [means] attachment.”

-Pandit Rajmani Tigunait


Attachment manifests itself in many ways—from liking a particular snack to missing a loved one in the hospital to having a certain political opinion. We are attached to something or someone because that something or someone pleases us. We get some pleasure from that person or thing or idea or way of acting.


This movement toward what pleases us is the third afflictions in the process of controlling our mind and finding peace and happiness in our physical world. These pleasures do not let our mind, much less our body, to find stillness and health.


My favorite snack was (and really still is) potato chips. I would sit down in front of the television to watch a show that I liked and soon the entire 16 ounce bag of chips was gone. I couldn’t just eat a few chips, not even one serving. I compulsively ate all the chips in the bag—10 servings at once. Then I got to liking peanut M&Ms. The same thing happened. I would finish a whole bag in one sitting. Sometimes I would eat both of them in the same sitting. My attachment to the pleasure of eating those snacks became a problem.


I was no longer in charge of my eating habits. The potato chips and the M&Ms were in charge of me, along with the television show I sat down to watch. Subtly, I began to not like myself when I sat down to watch television. Something inside of me was not ultimately happy with what I was doing. I was disturbing myself at a deeper level.


All attachments, especially mental attachments, says Yoga, are a problem. They set patterns of distraction, or stupefaction, or disturbance in our minds. Our minds are no longer calm and peaceful. Our attachment has taken away our pleasure and happiness.


We can see how attachments to ideas and beliefs today in the public world are causing much damage to our public, political happiness. The attachment that lawmakers and people in power have toward their partisan perspectives and beliefs are making it very difficult for those needing certain laws passed—like families needing assistance for child care or people needing access to more affordable housing, etc. 


Attachment to the life of a loved one, who has died, is one of the most challenging forms. It totally disrupts the mind, pushing one into a deep grieving process, and creating much mental and emotional turmoil.


In the Christian tradition, the mystics and spiritual leaders talk about the practice of detachment. Ordinary Christians are taught that the answer to all this turmoil and unhappiness is “to give all the pain and suffering over to Christ through prayer.”  


Yoga suggests a similar method of healing and movement toward happiness and a movement away from the pain of attachment. Yoga says that a practice of meditation, focusing the mind on the divinity within ourselves or on the breath of life will enable our minds to become one-pointed. This one-pointed-ness will bring access our core happiness and peace within.


Whichever method we use, learning and practicing non-attachment will bring us to peace and will allow the mind to still itself and rest in that stillness. That is our true destiny—happiness and peacefulness.


Happy Pentecost, the celebration of the union of the Holy Spirit/Breath, to all the followers of Jesus, the Christ!


I bow to the divinity within you!

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