Dharma Glimpse by Frankie
yoghurt and honey
a spoonful of memories
‘attachment is the source of all suffering’
internet meme attributed usually to the Buddha.
Non-attachment, nekkhama, not clinging, not grasping etc is a fundamental of Buddhist teaching and philosophy. It is at the core of the four noble truths, often the first lesson that students of Buddhism are exposed to. It’s often taught quite simply at first, involving attachment to physical objects, and then moves to a deeper level – attachment to our likes and dislikes, conditioned thinking, thoughts themselves. In my case above, memory.
As an excuse to keep my elderly mind active I often do online jigsaws. One evening recently I came across a jigsaw featuring Agios Nikolaos in Crete, somewhere I had spent a two week holiday back in 1983 with my late, ex-husband. We were lucky; I did a very late booking, and when we arrived we had been given a lovely 2-bed, rustic style apartment on the outskirts of town- it was a great holiday.
While I completed the jigsaw, I couldn’t shake myself free of memories,mixed as they were, the beauty of the town and surroundings, lovely food and weather, feelings of general love and happiness combined with terrible sadness at how our marriage eventually failed. Wondering what that apartment looked like today I started what turned out to be an agonising and obsessive search on the internet and Google Earth. I could find no trace of it, nothing that resembled it, almost nothing apart from the port that I recognised.
Somehow I just couldn’t get it into my head that over 40 years places change, despite my knowing full well from experience that they can change drastically in half that time. I had such a clear picture in my mind of the apartment, the road it was on, the two walks we used into town, one down a winding lane full of olive groves; I clung so steadfastly to those memories that I spent days in a futile search online for anything that proved the permanence of them. Then I was sure that I must still have some actual photos from that time; I had brought some from the UK when we moved – and that became another obsessive search, which did indeed end in more suffering – a few photos of us in Crete which only made me sadder for my ex husband’s suffering and all that we had lost.
And after everything I’ve learned as a student of Buddhism!
More than 11 years of being immersed in the Four Noble Truths!
And still here I was, clinging to things that were impermanent – not just physical spaces, but memories and narratives distorted by time. It was more than three weeks before the pain started to recede – yes I clung to that for a little while too.
The past can be like a hungry ghost, bloated on useless memories, feeding on the present, stealing it away. I’m happy to still be able to remember, but I need to remind myself to remember with love and acceptance and awareness that it’s in this precious, fleeting present that I now reside.
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I had a similar but different experience recently. In the 1980’s I spent time living on a kibbutz and lately I have felt a rising interest in going back to visit. I completed a google search only to find that the kibbutz had closed and the community had separated. I found a link to a newspaper article about the closure of Kibbutz Ha’On and an interview with Moshe someone I had worked with in the banana plantation. I read how he was in tears recounting the demise of the kibbutz and found myself crying too. There was no longer anything to go back to but somehow this connection in tears seemed to be all that I was looking for.