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Indulge an Attachment

--by Roger Walsh (Dec 02, 2013)


One of my meditation teachers was a man who had devoted many years to spiritual practice.  He had studied many spiritual texts, lived in monasteries under austere conditions, and done long meditation retreats.  He had had some very deep experiences.  Yet in spite of all this he still had one problem he had not been able to overcome: he was utterly attached to sweets.  In fact, he spent a significant amount of the very little money he had buying them.
 
Finally, one day he went to the market with a large box.  Going from one sweet stall to another, he filled the box with delicacies until his money ran out.  Then he went home, laid the sweets on his table, and meditated.  When his mind was clear, he took his first mouthful. 
 
Summoning all his awareness, he noted every aspect of the experience.  He observed his eager anticipation as he reached for the first morsel, the sensations as the sweets filled his mouth, and the first taste of sweetness and the rush of pleasure that immediately raced through his mind.  Then he watched himself swallow and immediately reach for more. 
 
Mouthful after mouthful, sweet after sweet, he continued to eat and observe.  After a while, he began to notice a change.  The sharp, sweet taste began to cloy rather than stimulate, and the rush of pleasure disappeared.  
 
Still, he continued eating and watching.  Now the eager anticipation became distaste.  The intense sweetness, which had initially seemed so exciting, now felt vaguely sickening, and the sight of the remaining sweets only increased the feeling.  He continued to eat until he had to force himself to eat another sweet.  By the time he finally got up from the table, he had cured his attachment to sweets forever.
 
Of course, indulging a craving is no guarantee of a cure.  If it were, alcoholics would drink themselves sober instead of dead.  However, when indulgence is used occasionally and skillfully, with careful awareness and in the context of a spiritual practice, it can sometimes be very valuable.
 
--Roger Walsh, in Essential Spirituality


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15 Previous Reflections:

 
On Dec 4, 2013 Sowmya Shankar wrote:

 Our attachment to loved ones and friends is also very addicitive. And it is one of the toughest attachments to get rid of too. You cannot hate them because you would end up hating yourself. Loving them too much also sometimes ends up in a not so favorable situation. As the author mentioned, it requires a lot of skill to be able to achieve that balance. It requires a lot of spiritual guidance too in order to achieve complete detachment. In my life, I'm having this constant battle between how much to be attached and how to detach myself.



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On Dec 3, 2013 mbj wrote:

 There's a story I like about Sri Aurobindo.  A sadak who apparently disapproved of his smoking habit asked him, "Why are you so attached to smoking?"  Mr. A replied, "Why are you so attached to my not smoking?"  Funny guy, that Aurobindo.



On Dec 3, 2013 Lani Chaves wrote:

Just this morning I made a deliberate choice to accept the feelings of love I have in my heart for an unrequited lover and let go of my attachment to the person itself. Cleaving my experience of Loving and the Beloved object allows me the freedom to observe, as the Teacher above, the intrinsic nature of Love itself and the impermanent nature of the object loved.

Mother Teresa had famously said, "Love them anyway." You can google the full quote yourself, but the idea is the same. Love is always within us and it's greatest expression is as a gift we give to others. Having love returned is merely an added bonus!



On Dec 3, 2013 Lani Chaves wrote:

Just this morning I made a deliberate choice to accept the feelings of love I have in my heart for an unrequited lover and let go of my attachment to the person itself. Cleaving my experience of Loving and the Beloved object allows me the freedom to observe, as the Teacher above, the intrinsic nature of Love itself and the impermanent nature of the object loved.

Mother Teresa had famously said, "Love them anyway." You can google the full quote yourself, but the idea is the same. Love is always within us and it's greatest expression is as a gift we give to others. Having love returned is merely an added bonus!



On Dec 3, 2013 Cecilia wrote:

Thank you for the enlightenment. I have too experienced over indulgence, it was not until I thought to my self, why am I trying to comfort my self in this harmful way? What am I missing out on.  Takes some thought and energy to work out . But I stopped by  learning to love my self, and  laughing again. Laughing at adversity , sorrow is harder I might add, But that can be healed with meditation, and prayer. Just keep a thought in your heart for your  self  every day and surround it with the spiritual love that is here for us all.Comfort will become a priority, your Spirit shall rise,And besides your self all those around you shall feel that strength .blessings to everyone.



On Dec 3, 2013 Jyoti wrote:

Sweets are my weakness too, and I have to go eat one just now, simply from reading this paasage. I always have six flavors of ice cream in my freezer and having that abundance handy was the way for me to stop eating it compulsively. It is just reassuring to have it, should I want to indulge, and now I seldom over indulge in ice-cream. But other sweets can still be an issue sometimes. It is good to have permission to indulge occasionally and not be carrying guilt for it all the time. When my friends come for dinner, and start to read the small print on the ice-cream container to see the calorie content, I have to protest and remind them to simply enjoy it for what it is. It may not be good for the body but it can be good for the soul when it is comforting in its own way. Why ruin the enjoyment of eating it by focusing on the label when we already know it is not good in excessive amounts. Just indulge responsibly. Lord Krishna loved butter so much that he would steal it to satisfy his c  See full.

Sweets are my weakness too, and I have to go eat one just now, simply from reading this paasage. I always have six flavors of ice cream in my freezer and having that abundance handy was the way for me to stop eating it compulsively. It is just reassuring to have it, should I want to indulge, and now I seldom over indulge in ice-cream. But other sweets can still be an issue sometimes. It is good to have permission to indulge occasionally and not be carrying guilt for it all the time. When my friends come for dinner, and start to read the small print on the ice-cream container to see the calorie content, I have to protest and remind them to simply enjoy it for what it is. It may not be good for the body but it can be good for the soul when it is comforting in its own way. Why ruin the enjoyment of eating it by focusing on the label when we already know it is not good in excessive amounts. Just indulge responsibly. Lord Krishna loved butter so much that he would steal it to satisfy his cravings, and there is no guilt associated with that !

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On Dec 2, 2013 Mohandas wrote:

 Some times it helps depending on what you indulge in. But generalization is difficult. Remember the story of Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. When a parent took his child to Swamii and requested him to advise his son eating to much of sweets, he did not advise then and asked them to come after two weeks. Swamiji was in the habit of taking sweets. First he stopped and then after two weeks when they returned, he thought he could advise the child against eating sweets. Preachers have practice first if the listeners have to follow them. But present days, we have only preachers who rarely practice what they preach.



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On Dec 1, 2013 david doane wrote:

 Sometimes the way out is in.  The day before I quit smoking, I smoked more than 2 packs of cigarettes, to the point that I was sick from them and of them, which made it easy for me to not smoke for the next day.  Then I don't remember what I did except that it was damn difficult to quit smoking, and I now haven't smoked in about 30 years.  I also think about the biblical advice to resist not evil, which I've come to believe means that whatever I don't like about me (and others) is still part of me, since we are all one, and to resist it as in to alienate it and declare it evil and the enemy is to create a war that goes on for a very long time, and to not resist it but to own it becomes absorbing it and living harmoniously with it and learning from it -- I don't fully do that or always know how to do that, but I do believe that is the way to deal with the parts of ourself (and others) that we dislike.  Declaring war does little and often seems to make 'the ene  See full.

 Sometimes the way out is in.  The day before I quit smoking, I smoked more than 2 packs of cigarettes, to the point that I was sick from them and of them, which made it easy for me to not smoke for the next day.  Then I don't remember what I did except that it was damn difficult to quit smoking, and I now haven't smoked in about 30 years.  I also think about the biblical advice to resist not evil, which I've come to believe means that whatever I don't like about me (and others) is still part of me, since we are all one, and to resist it as in to alienate it and declare it evil and the enemy is to create a war that goes on for a very long time, and to not resist it but to own it becomes absorbing it and living harmoniously with it and learning from it -- I don't fully do that or always know how to do that, but I do believe that is the way to deal with the parts of ourself (and others) that we dislike.  Declaring war does little and often seems to make 'the enemy', including an attachment or addiction, even stronger.  In this country, we are attached to attacking and making war, be it on cancer or drugs or poverty or another people or whatever, and each of those things seems to still be thriving and stronger than ever, so I am convinced that attacking and making war, be it against an addiction within me or otherwise, doesn't work.  'Indulging' in the attachment certainly is worth trying.

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On Nov 29, 2013 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 I am guessing Roger Walsh indulged himself and it worked for him.. I too am addicted to sweets. I have had very little candy in the last 30 years because one piece of candy is never enough.Within the last year I've been nibbling on dark chocolate under the guise of "health food."  As I noticed the guize, I have not had dark chocolate in three or four months, but today, I had three  pieces before reading what Walsh had to say. I have years ago indulged in much candy and found that I could never have too much. I don't think indulging works for me. The topic of essential spirituality means to me, and I project this on everyone else, that if one is kind, one is spiritual. If one is kind, one is wise. I do not indulge in kindnesses to others or myself but I wonder if it would be worth a try. Warm and kind regards to everyone.