Posts in objects and attachment
Objects & Attachment:  Experiencing Joy through Maitri 
John Baldessari, Of What Use (from Goya Series), 1997

John Baldessari, Of What Use (from Goya Series), 1997

Last week I wrote about the need for space, and as I was writing, I was brought to my final point - that the ultimate way to “get” space is to create it by surrendering.  To let go to allow room for the magic.  I’ve been reading Pema Chodron’s “When Things Fall Apart,” and as I read the chapter on maitri this week, I had many "aha" moments.  I love when the topics I’m exploring show up in many places - books, films, people’s words, etc.  It allows for the studying to become almost intoxicating.  

Maitri is Sanskrit for loving-kindness.  In our culture, sometimes loving-kindness is seen as this grand act of being overly sweet, yet in truth, there is a neutrality to maitri.  In this except from the book, Pema explores the concept of maitri through surrender:

“What makes maitri such a different approach is that we are not trying to solve a problem.  We are not striving to make pain go away or to become a better person.  In fact, we are giving up control altogether and letting concepts and ideas fall apart.

Here's more of her beautiful writing:

“The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face to face.  When we feel resentment because the room is too hot, we could meet the heat and feel its fieriness and its heaviness.  When we feel resentment because the room is too cold, we could meet the cold and feel its iciness and its bite.  When we want to complain about the rain, we would feel its wetness instead.  When we worry because the wind is shaking our windows, we could meet the wind and hear its sound.  Cutting our experiences for a cure is a gift we can give ourselves.  There is no cure for hot and cold.  They will go on forever.  After we have died, the ebb and flow will still continue.  Like the tides of the sea, like day and night — this is the nature of things.  Being able to appreciate, being able to look closely, being able to open our minds — this is the core of maitri.”

The core of maitri is also the core of this work.  When we see our objects as symbols - they become just that, symbols.  This creates disconnection - the exact opposite of what we are after.  When we are searching for answers in our things, we are in a sense starving ourselves.  Of freedom.  Of joy.  I write about this a lot.  There is no cure for our dissatisfaction.  The key is to meet whatever is there, and in this meeting, we leave room for the joy.  We cry tears of joy because the feelings of overwhelming sadness and overwhelming joy are so similar.  We can experience the joy by observing the pain.  There is beauty in this meeting.

There is also beauty in the meeting of object and human.  Without us, the tea mug is of what use?  Part of the work is acknowledging that our objects just are.  A mug is for drinking tea.  A vase is for holding flowers.  The purpose is straightforward.  But what’s our purpose?  We get to decide that.  We experience maitri by simply being.  By pausing.  By allowing our objects to serve us in order to practice mindfulness.  And in this presence, we create space.  And in this space, we can experience joy.  In order to do this, we must detach from the symbol, and instead, meet the neutrality.  

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Objects & Attachment: Getting Your Needs Met
Jenni Kayne
Jenni Kayne
Jenni Kayne

Most of us understand that we look to others in order to get our needs met, and we can also understand that this is not healthy.  What we may not realize is that we look to our things to meet our needs as well.  On a surface level, our objects really can do this.  A tea kettle gives us hot water, a vase holds flowers, shoes protect the soles of our feet, an art book gives us inspiration.  Yet, we are the only ones who can truly meet our needs from within.  Learning this is is a process, which includes stripping our conditioning and false ideas of self; however, we can start this process by leaning into each moment.  What do I need right now? Grounding? Self care? Inspiration? To just be okay alone?  All of these answers can be met by simply taking a walk in nature and/or meditating.  So rather than looking to our things to fulfill our deeper needs (when misused this often looks like projecting a false sense of identity, power, or status onto objects), we can look to them to help us do the work.  We can transform “I want that because it’s pretty,” to “how can this serve me?”  Perhaps a vase will help you to create a ritual of foraging greenery once a week.  A tea kettle that you love will inspire you to make more tonics or simply to sit down once a day with a cup of tea on your porch.  An art book will inspire you to flip through its pages instead of Instagram photos.  A small ceramic plate will hold space for your palo santo, which will remind you to light the incense and take 15 minutes to meditate.  

Our objects are an extension of us not because they communicate who we are, but rather because they are the vessels in which we transmit connection.  As I’ve mentioned before, our objects are mirrors, reflections back at us.  Unlike humans, objects don’t have agendas or egos.  They don’t even have life or breath without us, so we can really see ourselves clearly in our relationships with them because they are incapable of projecting anything onto us - the reflections back are solely from our own projections.  These projections reveal what we need to shift within ourselves.  Our objects are simply there to serve us.  They can be used as gateways to discovery and learning - not only by aiding us in our rituals, but also by looking at the ways in which we project onto them from our ego space.  What if you only acquired objects to aid in your growth? What if you transformed your relationship with the objects you already have in order to serve a greater purpose?  Start with one object.  Ask it how it serves you.  If the answer that comes through is that it serves something coming from the ego, then ask how it can serve you from your heart space?  How can it aid you in order to meet a need from within? 

Photography by Angi Welsch & styling by me, for Jenni Kayne.

Objects & Attachment: Clearing Space
Home of Paige Geffen_01
Home of Paige Geffen_02

Last month I posted about objects and attachment in regards to letting go and surrendering to the process of change, growth (and outgrowth).  Some of you asked about delving deeper into this topic, so I’ve decided to create a series around attachment in order to explore it more in depth.  While this work is about letting go of attachment, detachment is not the goal.  This work is about connection - aloofness has no place here.  Our objects serve us, but it is up to us as to how.  They can do so in unwanted ways, by fulfilling a false sense of identity, power, status, or even wholeness.  We are whole on our own, and it is our job to do the work to be in this place of knowing.  Things like identity, power, and status are constructs, and when we use them to fill us up, we are being untruthful to ourselves about who we are, which really robs us of living authentically and to our fullest.  If we tear down these constructs, we can allow our objects to serve us by using them as vessels to connect to ourselves.

I’m in the process of getting rid of a storage unit full of all of my possessions (other than my clothing/accessories, some books, and a handful of other objects).  These are things I haven’t necessarily outgrown.  Things I cherish and love.  Things that used to serve a positive purpose (and have potential to in the future), but right now, they are just sitting in a dark room, unused and unappreciated.  My decision to let these items go did not come quickly or easily, but I felt a heaviness from holding onto them.  An intangible weight - they’re taking up space in my life.  Not physically, but metaphysically.  For me, keeping the storage unit has meant waiting for something “better” to come along.  I’m currently living in a lovely, tiny cottage, but it’s not conducive long term for two people and a dog.  The storage unit has acted as a representation for what’s next.  “Once we find a bigger place, we can put the credenza here and…”  It takes me away from the present and from my relationships with the objects I currently do live with.  From where I am in my life right now.  From acceptance.  I may move somewhere new in one month, or it may take years.  I don’t know what the future holds, and that is magical.  Anything is possible, so I’m creating space for all that I don’t know, for all that I can’t imagine - to make room for the possibilities, for expansion, for growth beyond my current understanding.  I don’t want to stay stagnant in what was or even in what I want things to turn into,  I want to be here, in the now.  And for me, that’s a spacious way to live (even in 300 sq. ft).  

This process may seem drastic, and I’m not suggesting that everyone should do the same.  These types of decisions are deeply personal and individualistic.  Check in with yourself.  What is weighing you down metaphysically?  How can you create space in this area of your life?  Does it involve clearing physical space of any kind?  This is a great journal exercise in order to look at where you may be holding on, in order to shed attachment and create space for the great unknown.  If you’re looking to dive deeper into the work, sessions are now open again.