Attachment, attraction, affiliation, aversion.
Four horrible, but omnipresent A’s.
We are attracted to things, possessions, achievements, pleasures, people, ideals, values, concepts, and anything between heaven and earth that rewards us temporarily with neurological highs.
At the same time we feel aversion towards things that hinder satisfaction, or that put as in any kind of disadvantage, even suffering.
When we attain certain things, and they become valuable, like luxury goods, titles, money, a partner and, especially, our own self, our ego, we feel affiliation with them – identify with them – and they become part of who we are, of the who we present to the world, and the who we enjoy looking at in the mirror. We grow attached to those shiny rubies of experience.
The thing is, none of it is durable, none of it lasts, so we keep on looking for reinforcements or replacements. It does NOT work. We can fool ourselves, and fool others, but deep inside, our TRUE SELF knows it is just a load of utter codswallop.
Once we embrace and start feeding our true self, we will become conflicted. We might get stressed, frustrated, scared, or even angry. The mind does not like such conflict, but it is for the best, we have to overcome and persevere.
I have talked about the true self before. Let’s introduce the concept of sacrifice. In some cultures it is commonplace to perform ritual sacrifice. Such ceremonies might be aimed at feeding the poor and creating greater social awareness, but sacrifice goes much deeper than that.
In certain religious traditions (especially the Abrahamic ones) it is narrated that certain people who were searching God, were asked to sacrifice the lives of their spouse or children. Now, most would (hopefully) not agree with actually killing family members to appease God, but it is paramount to try to appreciate and acknowledge the significance of the willingness to “give up everything.”
What matters, it seems to me, in such extreme cases, is the coming to a realization that nothing in this world should be hold so dearly as to never wanting to part with it under any circumstance. It should be clearly stated, however, that I do not intend for this to mean “to not hold anything dearly”, or to actually give those things up. On the contrary, I encourage holding dearly to what matters, to people who matter, in life, however, not to the extent of sacrificing one’s true self. The crucial lesson here is to let go of all identification with anything else than the true self. One can still love, care, and even achieve – as a matter of fact, when embracing the true self primarily, such love can become even more profound! – but one is no longer bound by them to the realm of the finite and manifested, the universe of unavoidable tragedy. It will transform the self from a self of wants into a self of needs, and from a self of needs into a self of being. A self that simply is, without any need of becoming anything else than itself.
Sacrifices do not need to be drastic and dramatic, like in the case of hermit monks or the people told about in religious traditions. Small sacrifices are small steps, but small steps can lead to bigger ones, and even the change in awareness, and the willingness to change associated with these small steps, can bring about a whole chain reaction in the self.
The sacrifices made are not just for the sake of those who might benefit from them, even more so they are for the sake of our own betterment, for the salvation of our true self. And the salvation of our true self is the best gift we can provide our loved ones with, a beautiful self is worth more than the world’s most expensive jewels.
Photography by Peter van Delft