I’ve touted the brilliance, eloquence and beauty of Ram Dass many times and I’m going to do it again today. The guy was just a total stud.
Today it’s about a teaching of his that is central to personal growth. Here’s what he said:
“A feeling of aversion or attachment toward something is your clue that there’s work to be done.”
This is so important to understand. Why? Because if you don’t, you will continue to march to the beat of your ego. Here’s why.
It’s all about ego
Aversions and attachments almost always originate in ego. Let’s look at some examples to illustrate.
Just for kicks, I’ll use examples from my life, before and after I dove into spiritual practices.
Example #1: I used to be strictly attached to working out almost every day. Why? Because exercise helped me manage stress, anxiety and depression.
Now, I’m not so extreme about it. If I have to miss a few or several days, either because I’m sick or circumstances warrant it, I don’t freak out about it. Why? Because I know I can handle it. I may not feel as physically well as I would had I worked out, but I do fine. I’ve loosened my attachment to it and I feel better for it.
Example #2: I used to have strong attachments to certain things, like sentimental paraphernalia. Now, not so much. For instance, I went to the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, in 2015, and had a blast. I bought tons of shirts, hats, etc., that can only be bought at the tournament.
One of those items was a beautiful mug with the Masters logo on it. It was my go-to mug for six years, meaning it was the one I put in the freezer and used for my post-workout seltzer water with lemon or for a beer at dinner time.
Around a year and a half ago, I retrieved the mug from the freezer, put it on the counter, then proceeded to get my seltzer and lemon. I had done this same thing literally hundreds of times before.
But this time, the icy part on the bottom of the mug caused it to slide off the counter and…smash into a hundred pieces. Bye, bye Masters mug.
My previous self would have been bummed about this. Because I’d have developed a strong attachment to it. The new-ish me? “Dang, my Masters mug broke. We had a good six years, my friend. Sorry to see you go. Life goes on.”
And that’s it. It was gone and I didn’t look back. That’s not to say that I was happy it broke. Far from it. I really liked that mug. I just never allowed an attachment to develop with this inanimate object.
Example #3: I had a strong “feeling of aversion” toward writing this article today. This particular aversion goes straight to my core issue of feeling compelled to produce and “do.” It comes from being part of a family of Type A’s who were always on the go, achieving big things. This is clearly all about my ego telling me I need to measure up.
In the old days, I would have let this aversion fester to the point that I’d shame myself into gutting out this article, come hell or high water. Not so this time. It took me a few days to get it done.
This time I did when Ram Dass teaches: I saw this aversion for what it was and knew there was work to be done.
That leads to the $64,000 question: What is that work that needs to be done? Any of you who’ve read my previous articles can probably guess the answer by now…
The work is about letting go of those attachments and aversions.
How? You simply become aware when those attachments or aversions arise, then relax, lean away and let them pass. The hard work is in not succumbing to the allure that these attachments and aversions elicit. In other words, we work on not “taking the bait.”
It’s life. Things happen. Things come. Things go. Relationships, jobs, houses, cars, cities we live in. They come and they go.
The key, as I said, lies in becoming aware when “…a feeling of aversion or attachment” arises. Because as Eckhart Tolle so wisely said:
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”
If you don’t notice that some feeling has come up, you won’t get the “…clue that there’s work to be done.” I’ve noticed that this very thing is a big, big problem for many people, including some that I have counseled.
I’ll have told people multiple times about what I’ve written above and then I’ll see them do things like:
-Literally start shaking from being so infuriated at some stupid thing the mailman had done.
-Stridently arguing to me about how “right” they are and “wrong” someone else is in some conflict. On this one in particular, Eckhart is right on when he says, “Any time you find yourself arguing that you’re right and someone else is wrong, it ALWAYS emanates from the ego.”
-Come at a marital dispute 100 percent from the place of, “This is what I need! I have to have it this way!” In other words, they have a titanium strong attachment to their needs.
In all these instances, they needed to do what Ram Dass taught: Become aware of this aversion or attachment, realize they need to let it go, and then let it go.
In sum, Ram Dass’s teaching is about becoming aware when we’ve been poked by an aversion or attachment, then letting it go.
This one is so important and so simple we should all cut it out and tape it to our desks…
“A feeling of aversion or attachment toward something is your clue that there’s work to be done.