01 Aug Attachment and spiritual evolution
Surprise for those that read until the end.
If the post seems too long for you I have divided it into 5 sections.
The first one should be enough.
Attachment and spiritual evolution
Recently, I was asked the following question:
If I strip away my attachment to relationship and accomplishment who am I underneath?
I cannot answer who you are underneath, because I don’t know you. But I can try to say what you will become.
The shortest and most spontaneous answer that I could say is:
Free. When you strip away from your attachment, you will become free.
But security is needed.
For Buddha, attachment was the cause of suffering.
For every human being, including Buddha, attachment is the first relationship we develop with another being.
Attachment exists because we are born dependent. You may have heard that human beings, out of all the known life on this universe, are the animals who are most dependent at the time of birth. Most people nowadays are familiar with neuroplasticity, the fact that the brain keeps on leaning and changing all over our lives and development (cite required). However, more people may be unfamiliar with the fact that the skull, the container of the brain, is not completely closed when we are born (cite required). Apart from facilitating the already painful birth to the mother, the softness of the bones of the skull in newborns allows the brain to develop and expand the fastest during our first years.
Focusing on learning requires a safe environment. When we are unable to live by ourselves independently, the safety of an environment is determined by the people inhabiting that space, that universe. The famous experiments supporting this idea were carried out by Bowlby (cite required). Some mothers and their kids were in a room full of toys. The kids were playing around while the mother was patiently seated. At some point, the mother left the room leaving the kid alone. Healthy kids stopped playing, stopped exploring, stopped learning. All kids cry. They suffered at their realization of their loneliness, of their dependency, of their vulnerability. They expressed their fear, pain and suffering by crying. Crying for help, crying for support. Crying for love.
Love is the most effective pacifier. Love is built on trust. After a couple of minutes, the mothers entered the room and tried to pacify the kids. The ones that were familiar with the love of their mothers calmed down really fast. Those that couldn’t quickly connect and understand that the mothers had come back and were giving them love, took longer to calm down and return to an explorative behavior.
Bowlby divided the reaction of the kids in several categories: secure, anxious-ambivalent anxious-avoidant, and disorganized. All excepting the secure, are insecure. (You can read more on Wikipedia about this).
Then, the psychological literature made us believe that we are conditioned for the rest of our lives according to the type of relationship we developed with our first caregiver, mostly our mothers.
People with a secure attachment are related to better outcomes on many aspects of life. Interpersonal relationships (romantic, familial, friendship), goal achievement, academic success and such a long list of things that I grow skeptic of it (You can read many of these in Wikipedia as well, in the section of Attachment in adults). It is for me difficult to believe that the first relationship that we had is determining the rest of our lives. I agree that it is probably the strongest one that we will ever develop. None of us can remember the first years of our lives. The time when our attachment reaction was being built. Thus, we may underestimate its impact. But I deeply believe in change. I believe that human beings can change. I believe we can learn. I believe we can grow.
I used to have a pretty insecure attachment (sometimes anxious, sometimes ambivalent), but nowadays, believe me on this, I am doing much better. (You can take a look to my Unfinished Loves if it serves as inspiration).
Personally, spirituality is, among other things, a deeper approach to human psychology, a more evolved one. Evolved and simplified.
Buddha detected that attachment was the cause of suffering. Attachment was developed on us when we were extremely dependent on other human beings. We were completely vulnerable, and if it weren’t for our first caregiver, we wouldn’t be alive today. It’s that simple.
Thus, it is simple to understand that this relationship keeps on affecting most of us after many years and in many aspects of our life.
However, I think that we can grow. I don’t like the idea that we cannot control the outcome of our life, that who we are going to become depends on the type of one specific relationship we had.
I believe in realizations. Realization is a pretty spiritual word. Learning is progressively discovering bits of reality. Realizations are fundamental alterations to the essence of our existence.
Realizations are changes in our soul.
Secure attachment means that we can explore the world feeling safe. Unsecure attachment means that we keep on feeling unsafe and that limits the realm of things that we can experience in this life.
We all should forgive our mothers. At some point somewhere on our development, we needed our caregivers and they weren’t there. We suffer. We learned. We became unsecure. The lesson: when we needed caregivers, they may not be there. We cannot trust people. Love is a limited and conditioned resource.
Spiritually speaking, we can arrive at a different realization. The realization that love is within us and that depends on us to feel loved and secure. Thus, we will become free.
Maybe this thought sparks fear on you. It sometimes does on me.
This fear is another form of attachment. Attachment to our human nature. It is undeniable that attachment is human. However, I disagree on believing that is the most evolved form of love. Religion focuses on divinity, spirituality on humans. I like to define myself as a spiritual polyreligious person.
Certain religions make us believe that the highest form of love is god. As a spiritual person, I am still attached to the idea that the highest form of love is manifested and enacted by human beings. God is just an easy metaphor.
Letting go of our attachments will make us less human, more divine. The perils are that one of the most successful religions of our time is founded on the idea that a very spiritual person that named himself “the son of god” was eventually crucified. Christianity invites us to believe that proclaiming yourself divine will bring you suffering and persecution from society. Buddhism, on the other hand, was founded by a person that after years of conscientious and continuous introspective exploration realized the truth that attachment is the cause of suffering. Then, he developed a methodology to get rid of suffering and spend the rest of his life spreading it.
The person writing this is Carlito Fluito. I like to acknowledge my human reality while developing my divine potentiality. I am European, and Aristotle’s thought about where the virtue lies have affected me. We have to progress and collaborate as a species if we want to reach divine levels.
We can change the weather at will, an outcome that was asked by Native American people by dancing around a fire. We are already creating life, modifying it, a skill that is given to any creator god in every mythology. We have huge abilities of destruction and punishment, a power that is given to warrior gods in many mythologies. We are thinking about conquering this universe. We are envisioning ways of creating new ones. If we are not god yet, we are becoming really closer.
And still. We remain so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so human. We still remain so humans that while I am writing these words tears appear on my eyes. We remain fearing each other. We remain hiding our souls. We remain attacking each other. We remain feeling unsafe and unsecure in this planet. We remain afraid of death. We remain attached to life.
But humanity is not only negative things. The lesson that we have to learn from attachment is the potentiality of feeling love, of feeling loved. Spirituality is a coping mechanism. Spirituality brings new tools of control to situations that seem infinitely uncontrollable. Detecting love as a tool, and leaving away attachment is, from my point of view, the spiritual solution that human beings need as a species at this historical moment.
So, what will we become once we strip away our attachment? Free. We will become free.
In monotheism, God created the world, the universe, but he was so attached to it, that he kept on intervening. He intervened so much that send prophets, messiahs, martyrs, saints… to keep on correcting and modifying his original creation. Most religious believers praise a God that is still behaving, feeling, and thinking like a human (cite required). I choose not to praise Gods that are like humans when I can directly venerate humans. Spirituality is a simplification, an evolved simplification. Why should I praise God, when I can praise human beings?
If we get rid of our attachment, we will become a more evolved form of spiritual beings. We may stop feeling human, and we may even fear that we will lose our capacity of love and be loved. But I don’t like to believe that. I prefer to think that leaving our attachments behind will transform us in a more evolved form of human beings. Humans that feel free, secure have the ability to love an be loved at will, independently of the behavior of another person, or the outcomes of a situation. Spirituality is the next step in our evolution as species. Detachment is a key step to take.
I don’t know who you are underneath since I can only speak from my experience, from who I am, and from what I have discovered on my path. The question about who you are can only be answered by you. With this text, I just tried to mention some of the things you are likely to become when you do if you are willing to try it.
I love to hear your questions and comments.
Danyabad for reading.
For you that read this far:
This is how I feel when I am free of attachment