Thread: Moreness
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Old 05-28-2011, 11:57 PM
Snowbunting Snowbunting is offline
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Join Date: May 2011
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Default possible clarification

I've read this whole thread through three times now, and I think that there may be some misunderstanding in connection with the words "detachment" and "addiction". On the other hand, I may be way off; if you think I am, then just disregard what I'm about to say.

In my experience (I've had some experience with a local Zen Buddhist community and I've sat in on several "Introduction to Buddhism" classes aimed at the general public), the word "detachment" can lead to big misunderstandings. I think that many people view the word "detachment" as having negative connotations; they view the word "detached" as being roughly synonymous with words or phrases like "emotionally cold", "unfeeling", or "uncaring". On the other hand, in at least some Buddhist circles, the word "detachment" is roughly equivalent to the word "equanimity". To have equanimity with respect to something is not to regard it in a way that is cold or unfeeling or vacant; rather, having equanimity involves having a good, healthy sense of proportion - it's the opposite of clinging to something in an unhealthy way.

When I think about equanimity, I sometimes think of the short poem (called "Eternity", I think) by William Blake that reads: "He who binds to himself a joy / Doth the winged life destroy; / But he who kisses the joy as it flies / Lives in eternity's sunrise."

In Buddhism, equanimity is one of four Brahma Viharas, i.e., divine abodes, or divine states of mind. The other three are compassion, loving-kindness, and sympathetic joy. One teaching I've often encountered is the idea that all four Brahma Viharas should be cultivated and that each should be cultivated in proportion to the others; they complement each other, and the capacity for each is fully developed (within a particular psyche) only when the capacities for the three others are fully developed as well. (I could qualify the word "capacity" here, and distinguish between latent and active capacities, but I don't want to over-complicate things - I hope that the gist of what I'm saying is coming through.) So, a person who has a great deal of equanimity also has a great deal of compassion, experiences much sympathetic joy, and loves abundantly.

In my experience, the word "addiction" causes almost as much misunderstanding as the word "detachment". In the Buddhist circles I'm familiar with, the word "addiction" often means something like "unhealthy attachment", so that being addicted to something (whether it be a person, object, behavior pattern, type of event, state of mind, etc.) involves clinging to that thing in a way that is unhealthy & out of proportion and in a way that gives rise to unnecessary suffering (in oneself and, possibly, in others as well). When the word "addiction" is used in this sense, it can be perfectly natural to say that a certain person is addicted to things like his studio, his hometown, his job, air conditioning, the affirmation of his co-workers, the state of being in charge, or a zillion other things.

Islandgy9, I hope that the above comments about senses of words have been at least somewhat helpful! (And, to GroundedSpirit: I hope that I haven't misunderstood you!) By the way, Islandgy9, I can completely sympathize with your missing the pattern of sleeping with someone (here I meanliterally sleeping with a loved one, of course). You associated the pattern of having a sleeping partner with many things, but putting those associations aside for just a moment, it does seem that sleeping next to a loved or trusted person (or multiple persons) is really comforting to some people, comforting in a kind of primitive way. It's interesting, for instance, that the pets within a given household tend to sleep near others (animals or people) much of the time (at least, that's been my experience); I've long felt that I kind of understand, in a visceral way, why many pets do that - there's a deep kind of comfort and contentment that can come from sleeping with someone loved or trusted nearby. Though lots of people are very content to sleep alone, some of us would really rather be near others.

Again, I know that your desire to sleep (literally) with someone encompasses a lot more than simply a desire for the kind of primal comfort I just described; it just makes a lot of sense to me that you'd put sleeping next to someone at the heart of what you miss & would like to have.

In any case, I wish you the best.

SB

PS: A quick afterthought - I didn't mean to imply that GroundedSpirit or anyone else is a practicing Buddhist - that would be really presumptuous. I've been assuming that there are many people who may embrace vastly different sorts of spirituality (or possibly dislike even the notion of a spiritual life) who sometimes use words in ways that Buddhists do. Okay, afterthought done - this post is already way too long, I know...

Last edited by Snowbunting; 05-29-2011 at 04:40 AM. Reason: quick PS
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