Getting Clingy

I received a number of lovely and kind emails this week, each of which I read and, ten minutes later, read again, not so much to enjoy them as to reassure myself that I am loved and appreciated. Because, you know, the pixels might have rearranged themselves to make different words

I think this is what Buddhists call clinging, something Thich Nhat Hanh does not recommend in his book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. Instead he suggests getting up close and personal with the appreciation of impermanence. After all, think what would happen if some things were permanent, like mosquitoes. By now Earth would be so full of mosquitoes that we’d have figured out intergalactic travel.

There are other things that most of us do want to be permanent, though—a really chocolatey chocolate ice cream cone (or vanilla if you happen to be one of those people), our health, that feeling we get when someone expresses her love for us. Apparently we don’t get to pick—clearly a universal design flaw.

In looking into the source of my obsessive email re-checking—another of the Buddha’s suggestions relayed by Thich Nhat Hanh—I found a lack of trust in the abundance of the universe. We live in a remarkably abundant place, from the number of mosquitoes to the number of galaxies—there is a whole lot of stuff here. And a lot of love and nice emails. I’m not saying we’ve worked out the distribution system particularly well among us humans, but that may have to do with this clinging, which I think is related to greed.

The reason greed is called a mortal sin is not that we are extra bad people when we are greedy but that it will kill us and others. We harm ourselves by trying to provide what only God can truly give, whether food or fulfillment, and end up feeling empty. Then, because of that feeling, we start hacking into other people’s inboxes and stealing their best emails. Or simply having too much to eat when others have not enough.

Trust doesn’t mean sitting on the couch and expecting the bag of potato chips to fall into our laps; it means recognizing that we are not the source of our existence, which can be difficult because it’s not what we’re taught. Paradoxically, though, when we don’t worry about when the next kindness will arrive, we can enjoy the present one a lot more.

6 thoughts on “Getting Clingy

  1. You are amazing and wonderful and talented and funny and profound and I love you heeps and beaps. You may read that as many times as you like while eating the chocolotiest of chocolate ice cream cones. : )

  2. I really love this post (and Rachel you are such a good writer.). I’d offer up another reason for clinging: doubt. Doubt that we deserve it. Doubt that it will be there for us. Doubt that it will be back. Doubt of love, of god and of worth.

    When I read the word abundance in your post I felt a bit of electricity go through me. I think this trust in abundance is something that I need to look at and perhaps rest in. It may be my word for 2016. That would take a lot of trust. 🙂

    The buddhist have a teaching about the Hungry Ghost, which I think taps into your writing about greed above. I’ll tell you about it next time we have lunch. It’s a teaching I keep in my mind.

  3. I agree about doubt. I think it’s what leads to greed. Wow, that would be very brave to take abundance as your word for 2016. When I read that, I could feel my own fear creeping in.

    Did you ever read Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston? The Hungry Ghost concept figured prominently in her childhood in a rather terrifying way. The next time we have lunch is today–yay!

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