Buddha’s Attachment and the White Elephant Purse

Sometime ago, I posted a snippet of a writing about the concepts attachment and non-attachment in Buddhism by Zen master Shunryu Suzuki. That post was called “The Zen of Flowers and Weeds.” (Check it out here.)

Very recently, in a very benign way, I got to live out this concept. I mean I live it all the time but this particular time was so obvious it begs to be shared, in my opinion.

In Buddhism, attachment is called a source of suffering. And attachment can take many forms, imagine the suffering you see in yourself or others when encountering an unquestionable blind belief about something. Or the suffering you see in yourself or others when you or they are in the mind that some thing must always be that one thing; even if the situation says otherwise or calls for something different. (Attachment in this way is like a habit.) In another situation, attachment could be a desirous want, like the attachment in this story.

At my friends’ birthday party, we had a white elephant gift swap. The rules were not that simple but we understood them: everyone picks a number and we pull mystery presents according to that number, each person could also steal another person’s present.

I had number 12 of our 15; and when I picked a gift, lucky me (!), I got this beautiful cigar box that had been transformed into a beaded cigar box purse. It had a beautiful design on the outside and the inside was lined with faux leopard skin fur. If you’ve read Flowers and Weeds, you’ll most likely recognize that this is the flower.

The purse is the flower because of its beauty and the desirous-nature it inspires, much like a flower’s beauty and essence is desirous. Everyone desires what it pretty to them. (If purses aren’t your thing substitute any other thing you would have liked.) And immediately, because I picked the present, this feeling of  “I found it, it’s mine! Mine mine mine!” came over me. I became attached to this thing.

With this said though, I knew this attachment was temporary in an immediate way, cuz the rules of the game say this object can be stolen at any time.

The stealing part, if you haven’t figured it out, is the weed. People love the flowers but hate the weeds. Who wants to endure detaching from something they adore so dearly? And who wants to do it so quickly? I mean I just got the thing.

This woeful weed of a feeling can be applied to more than a purse though: a friendship, an intimate relationship, money, a job, your mom, your dad, your confidence, all the things you identify as creating who you are as a person, these are the flowers that create your garden. These are the things you become attached to the most and are most threatened by the weeds of attachment.

So here I am, waiting for the game to finish, hoping beyond hope that my present isn’t stolen but still trying to practice some non-attachment; basically realizing that things will happen, I may get to keep it or it may get taken and that is what it is. And in this way, attachment is okay.

I’m not completely tied to the object and if its taken away I feel regret and sadness and this is normal. When we understand that our attachments to things are always subject to change or that the things we attach to may change, we are practicing non-attachment. (Or some such thing like that.)

I would say that a benefit of this type of thinking is that if you know your relationships are impermanent, hopefully you would become more mindful and skillful in the behavior you employ within the relationship. If you know this person may not be with you after 24 hours, how would you act? Would you be more attentive and present with them? If you had 24 hours before something significant in your life changed, would you be more present with yourself? Chew on it.

Back to the story.

Just as I think I am getting away with my beautiful purse, it’s stolen*. Not even me putting out my best don’t touch this vibe worked. Realizing it is what it is, I pick another mystery present. (Those who get their presents stolen can pick another present.) And this time, I picked a box set of audio CDs featuring the popular Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön.

Like seriously? Of all the random things, what the hell?

So there you go, flowers and weeds, white elephants and purses, attachment non-attachment.

*I ended up with the purse and the other present after all. But that was just a matter of luck, pouting, and poking, like most things. And also, not all things have a happy ending and that is what it is; but that doesn’t mean we can’t try for the happy ending, just that if it doesn’t come, try not to let it make you suffer too much. And if you are asserting yourself properly, you may also be less likely to suffer, in my opinion of course. =)

Oh and that’s not the actual purse but something similar. =)

About Your Personal Relationships And Mine

I had a great weekend. It was full of friends and full of me in all my faces. (Hooper, Geek, “Burner,” etc.) I find it fitting that this quote from Barry Magid [link], a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and Zen teacher, show up on the Tricycle blog. [link]

Aristotle said that in order for people to become virtuous, we need role models—others who have developed their capacities for courage, self-control, wisdom, and justice. We may emphasize different sets of virtues or ideas about what makes a proper role model, but Buddhism also asserts that, as we are all connected and interdependent, none of us can do it all on our own.

Acknowledging this dependency is the first step of real emotional work within relationships. Our ambivalence about our own needs and dependency gets stirred up in all kinds of relationships. We cannot escape our feelings and needs and desires if we are going to be in relationships with others. To be in relationships is to feel our vulnerability in relation to other people who are unpredictable, and in circumstances that are intrinsically uncontrollable and unreliable.

You can read more from Barry in this excerpt from his latest book, Ending the Pursuit of Happiness: A Zen Guide. [link]


I look at the metrics of this site quite a bit so I have a suspicion that most people won’t click to read the article where this quote is from and that is not what I would like, especially in this case. So I am posting a bit more about this concept because it is really important to me that you at least read it.

It’s important because the things I am about to highlight from the article are some of the basic core concepts that I believe in from the bottom of my heart. These concepts fuel my belief that all people in my life should be treated as a rose (within reason) and why I believe I must be treated like a rose in everyone’s life I am in (within reason).

It is also why I believe it can be healthy for some people to practice multiple intimate relationships congruently or as appropriate to their life situation.

Relationships aren’t just crutches that allow us to avoid … fears; they also provide conditions that enable us to develop our capacities so we can handle them [fears] in a more mature way.

It’s not just a parent-child relationship or a relationship with a partner that does that. The relationship of a student with a teacher, between members of a sangha, between friends, and among community members—all help us to develop in ways we couldn’t on our own. Some aspects of ourselves don’t develop except under the right circumstances.

We learn to keep our relationships and support systems in good repair because we admit to ourselves how much we need them. We take care of others for our own sake as well as theirs. We begin to see that all our relationships are part of a broad spectrum of interconnectedness, and we respect not only the most intimate or most longed-for of our relationships but also all the relationships we have—from the most personal to the most public—which together are always defining who we are and what we need in order to become fully ourselves.

Relationships work to open us up to ourselves. But first we have to admit how much we don’t want that to happen, because that means opening ourselves to vulnerability.

Now A Music Therapy Moment makes more sense, n’est ce pas?

20 Lessons Learned From Marriage

shapes_004In this lovingly written post called 20 Lessons Learned From My Marriage, Christabel Zamor reflects on the lessons she learned from her marriage and subsequent divorce. The 20 things are tidbits she wish she knew before she got married. Her tips or lessons, range from sex to work life, to spiritual life. All the tips are insightful and thought-provoking. I’ve posted some below.

Sex is Very Important. Prioritize It.
Here’s the deal. If sex plays a big role in your fundamental chemistry together, you need to keep that part of your relationship alive and thriving. Period. Do whatever it takes to keep feeling fantastic about yourself so that you can show up in the bedroom emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Touch. A Lot.
Maintain healthy physical nurturing. Even if you have had a disagreement, make touch a point of connection which can bring you back into sync. This can mean snuggling up at night in bed, reaching to give an unexpected shoulder rub, reaching out to hold hands or long hugs heart-to-heart.

Create A Mission Statement.
Take time to identify in 1-2 sentences the purpose of your relationship and revisit the focus frequently. This can provide a unifying touchstone. Soon after my husband and I met each other we created this. We came upon a “wishing blanket” at Burning Man and pinned a note on the blanket which said, “May we co-create a relationship filled with joy, positivity and light which is meant to bring those things to others around us.” This simple statement became a bedrock of our shared mission together as a couple and an easy barometer to use to measure whether we were in or out of alignment.

Find Fun Ways To Grow Together.
It is common that partners evolve and change over time. Make an effort to find interests which you can share as you each grow to keep your connections alive. This may mean taking up brand new interests which neither of you ever cultivated independently, taking workshops together, attending new events together, traveling to learn together, etc. Intentionally look for ways to stay connected, especially if you have busy lives. And if you have a busy life, think about slowing down.

Stay True to Who You Really Are and Allow Your Partner To Do the Same.
Make time to do all the things which help you feel like YOU. Don’t compromise on this, make it happen. Whether it is a daily run or meditation, a fun hobby or event you love to attend. Make being happy your #1 priority so you can bring your joy back to the relationship to share. It is of vital importance to continue to nurture your sense of self as a separate person. Eat, speak and move in alignment with who you really are. Treat your partner like your best friend and support their choices.

Identify Self-Destructiveness.
There is a clear line between allowing your partner to be who they are and watching them slide into a pit of self-destruction. Speak openly at the outset about your ideas of well being and shared values so you can remind each other as friends later on. It is each partner’s responsibility see that a healing is needed and to want to heal. You can never heal your partner, but you can support them taking action to align themselves.

Educate Yourselves About Relationships
We study random material in educational institutes for decades, but what about the art of relationships? Make it a fun shared interest to learn as much as you can about the dynamics of partnership. Have conversations, attend talks, read articles, read books. Devote at least as much attention to learning about relationships as you do to learning about your physical health and food! If you can share an open and honest dialog, you can extend the life of your marriage. Check out these books: The Vortex, Conscious Loving, Loving What Is, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

Read the rest of Christabel’s tips on her website, Light Bliss.

The Cute, The Quirky, The Asians

IMG_0035 (2)I’ve been absent from updating this site simply because that’s just the way it is right now. Hooping, hoop making, and generally hoopy things have taken my time. Here are three hoops I made for clients and a friend.

In the meantime, while I’m sorting out what the world needs and what makes people act dumb, please check out some of the sites on my blogroll. This week I suggest:

Idol Worship: Salvation for the Workshy Congregation [link]

The site is exactly as it says, a fun, quirky, SF-oriented website dedicated to entertaining (distracting) the desk jockeys of the world (unite!). In fact, because of them I found one of my new favorite sites, Asian Poses – The Definite Guide to Asian Poses. [link]

img-1193-poseThat site too, is exactly as it says, a guide to Asian poses. What are Asian poses you ask? And why you ask? Well Asians, particularly those invested in mainstream pop culture (think Japanese Idols), are notorious for their cute and quirky poses. Asian Poses is dedicated to documenting those poses and showing you how you can get your cute and quirky on.

I say it’s about time too. Too often, non-Asian cultures are have been limited to the dull “I’m only smiling in this picture” or “I’m showing my thug face” or the notorious out-of focus, “I’m too cool to act like I’m posing but I’m really posing” picture that became infamous on MySpace or for the females, “I’m posing for all the prisoners in cellblock four” or the “Check me out I could be a model right?” picture.

Now you and me and everybody has no excuses! In addition to writing about the poses, the site author also invites readers to send in their Asian poses through a pose challange. Check out this submission from their reader Samuel.


Check out their site to see more reader submissions and more poses. And check out this short video to see the 27 poses that have been written about so far. Continue reading