The goal of a monastic community is union with the Divine as expressed by Great Mother, Great Father, and Great Weaver. This is only possible as we reduce our attachments to, and preoccupation with, personal goals, desires, wishes, fears, angers, resentments, and needs. Attachment is defined as having a fondness, liking, or bondage to things, methods, or people. Simplicity, the sought after goal of the spiritual path is the ability to realize we have enough. It’s creating an uncomplicated life with a minimum of possessions and emotional attachments to self. We do this because we understand that having only what we really need allows us more time and energy to focus on prayer, meditation, and compassionate service.
All of us have attachments. We have filled our life with connections to people, places, and things. We do not want to give up most of these components of life. We are emotionally committed to relationships, possessions, education, status, jobs, money, security, family, friends, and our pets. Some of these attachments are desirable and have motivated us to do great things, such as become more compassionate, develop our intellect, or care for those who need our help. However, it’s wise to acknowledge that certain attachments, especially to power (status), privilege (awards), and possessions (money), can make it difficult for us to maintain our core values and moral standards. Even a life of service can have a hidden agenda- the desire for acknowledgement in this world or the next.
The evidence is all around us. Our fear of losing our job might prevent us from speaking out against unethical conduct in the workplace. Fear of losing our independence can prevent us from entering a monastery or taking guidance from a spiritual teacher. Clinging to financial security might lead us to remain in an abusive relationship or allow our children to be abused. As individuals it’s important to admit that our desire for comfort, financial well-being, our need to be in the know, have our voice heard, our opinions validated, and our contributions appreciated personal can create conflicts with an enlightened, spiritual life. At some point we have to decide that we have reached an adequate stage of attainment (we have enough) only then can we truly live according to greater ideals and spiritual truths.
Reduction of attachments requires discernment. And this discernment can be around simple, everyday objects that most people take for granted. Let’s take cell phones for example – in the modern world such an object appears to be a necessity of life. However, suppose that the monastery has a land line which can be used occasionally for personal calls and a cell phone that the monastics take with them if they must run errands away from the property. Since Bill will not be required to travel far distances as part of his duties and will only sometimes be asked to run errands, he does not need a personal cell phone. He might want one, find numerous reasons why it would be useful for him to own a cell phone, but he truly doesn’t need one. In attempting to reduce his attachments Bill realizes he has been programed by advertising to desire something he doesn’t really need; so in letting go of this desire he is able to liberate a part of his mind to focus on things of spirit.
When we begin to focus on reducing our attachments the mind launches a series of urgings and arguments that seem perfectly reasonable, as well as justifications for the way we feel and what we desire to have happen. These energies are Attachments. Attachments can be positive or negative, affirming or rebellious, inspiring or discouraging- whatever form they take they are a seditious product of the five minds (body, desire, striving, storytelling, and habituated) and their goal is distraction.
Our five minds (little self) cannot imagine that we are seriously considering a disciplined spiritual life, especially a life that will change, reduce, or even eliminate its control. Little self is that portion of our mind that thinks about SELF, and relate all things to self- “What will this mean to my job, my relationships, and my leisure time? When am I going to get a vacation, time for my family, or an opportunity to advance at work? I don’t know if I want to make a commitment it takes too much effort- what if I change my mind?”
When (little) self is terrified it will cease to exist (die) it begins to fight back with every weapon in its arsenal.
Great Spirit Mother, Father, and Weaver
I bow to your wisdom.
I accept that if personal change were unnecessary I would already be just like You.
Help me, for I am prone to trusting in myself instead of Your Wisdom.
Many times I have come to the resolution
To leave old, bad habits behind and create beautiful new ones.
Many times I have failed.
But, together with you Beloved there can be no failure.
Together with you miracles are possible.
Together with you I can change and become just like You.
This is my promise to you, and to my Great Being who is waiting to be born.
When my little self is hungry, I will feed it with gentle Love.
When my little self is angry, I will seek refuge in your peace.
When my little self is sad, I will focus on my blessings.
When my little self sees lack, I will focus on your many kindnesses to me.
When my little self sees failures, I will remember they are the path to wisdom.
Today I will try to be the Master of my life
So it does not master me.