Suffering and Attachment This relative world of time and space is the location of sadness, loss, and death. We may strive to be happy here but it never lasts. We may assume a transcendent pose but that only confirms the fact that being above or beyond rather than engaged constitutes a form of escape from the present conditioning of suffering. In the Buddhist tradition this human condition of suffering is a condition to be transcended or overcome. In the Christian tradition suffering is not a state to be avoided but rather to be embraced as spiritual means. These are two very different attitudes to the human predicament that is characterized by sadness and loss. Among the other spiritual-religious methods within the Great Tradition there are many others. So, how then should we respond to suffering? How should we meet the human condition? Those therapists and counselors among us recognize the trauma and sometimes the damage of early life. Childhood is resplendent with the experiences that characterize our closing down, our limiting reactivity, our resorting to the death of authenticity and inner essence in order to survive. It may then be said that life itself is inevitably toxic, an endurance test perhaps to ensure the survival of the fittest. In a sense this is true. All of us are the survivors of childhood. Those of us who choose to revisit the painful conditions of early years are either courageous or foolish, depending on your point of view. In therapy the prevailing notion of “working through” our childhood conditioning may be proffered as the way to be free in our supposed lifetime. Yet if it is true that this realm is the location of suffering – sadness, loss and death – what possibility and what scope for freedom can there be even when we have released ourselves from the constraints of childhood conditioning? For some the way may be spiritual practice. Meditation, contemplation, chanting, and so forth offer the promise of transcendence or indeed limitation from human conditions. You may sit or consider, sing holy words, or live in an ashram in order to reach a state of tranquility, peace, even profound relaxation. Here the danger so often realized is that in withdrawing into an ethereal state through spiritual means may be hard or impossible to sustain when you relinquish the rarified conditions of ashram life or regular disciplined spiritual practice like meditation. When this happens you are liable to consider your spiritual discipline as a fresh covering, a second conditioning, merely an escape from the worldly state of suffering, a reaction that simply avoids the very conditions you were seeking to transcend. You don’t transcend conditions through avoiding them. You transcend them through dealing thoroughly with them, by confronting them square on, through clearing up your unfinished business about them and releasing yourself of attachments. Attachments unreleased are naturally still present. The methods we are drawn to, whether inner to outer or outer to inner, like meditation or therapy, curiously are inclined to maintain the status quo. They cannot in and of themselves change anything very much. You are after all in a hole. The hole represents your supposed separateness and your supposed method for extraction from the hole is almost certain to be designed to covertly keep you safely in your hole.People will complain then endlessly about their therapy or their meditation at various times. Eighteen years of sitting meditation and I have never reached Nirvana; ten years in therapy and I am still not past my childhood conditioning. The therapist, the spiritual teacher, therapy itself, or the spiritual method becomes the object of criticism and disgust. Time has been wasted. Money has been wasted, Life has been wasted. The promise in the method, the charismatic person, the belief system, or healing paradigm has let you down. But what has really happened is you have got exactly what you wanted. If you entered therapy in order to get rid of something or improve some aspect of yourself, you will inevitably be frustrated. Not that relatively superficial changes may not take place, but simply that they are unlikely to sustain, and they are certain not to sustain when you are attached. For when you want to get rid of something or change some aspect of your life without understanding the feelings you have against it you are attached. Attachment exists out of attraction or aversion. Just like couples who have inverted their love and transformed it into hate, positive or negative the passion welds the two together in a swoon of ecstasy or an orgy of verbal violence, humiliation, and argument. Violence breeds violence just as peace breeds peace. If you have a goal in therapy or meditation make sure that it is one that embraces who you are, accepts the need to understand yourself in the deeper sense of that word, and that you have committed to a viable method for bringing about your healing and liberation

. ~ Richard Harvey, Founder of The Center for Human Awakening ~