Eliminating Attachment And Aversion To Experience Peace

We put so much time and effort craving and pursuing things we think will make us happy we leave hardly any time to cultivate the real causes of happiness and peace. As Lama Yeshe once said, “if we pursued enlightenment with the same enthusiasm as we pursue our hobbies we would all be awakened in no time.”

By Chad Foreman

Attachment and aversion are the main two obstacles to experiencing peace according to the Buddha. However, like many words that have migrated two thousands years into the present day the meaning and context has changed so I would like to offer an easy to understand version of what attachment and aversion actually mean and how to overcome them. 

I was stunned at the simplicity of this teaching when I first heard it from my Guru at the time. It was one of those teachings when he said, “if you just to remember one thing about Buddhism remember this”. So of course, I sat up and made effort to understand and memorise what he was about to say. 
Put very simply attachment is over-estimating the ability of something to bring you happiness and aversion is the opposite in that you over-estimate the ability of something to bring you suffering. 
The key term is over-estimating. It’s a core delusion colouring our present moment and projecting qualities onto people and the world which simply do not exist the way we think. Wrongly believing we need to get something or remove something to achieve peace and happiness. 

What Is Attachment?

Overestimating the happiness a person, object or experience can bring you. 

Attachment is very close to addiction. Things you cannot live without and crave on a regular basis. Things and people you compulsively pursue in the name of happiness and fulfilment but the core delusion is you are pursuing things that will not bring you any lasting happiness and their power to make you happy diminishes over time. 
Upon closer examination it’s possible to realise that happiness is not coming from the person or object you’re attached to. 
We put so much time and effort craving and pursuing things we think will make us happy we leave hardly any time to cultivate the real causes of happiness and peace. As Lama Yeshe once said, “if we pursued enlightenment with the same enthusiasm as we pursue our hobbies we would all be awakened in no time.” 
There is also something called healthy attachment in modern psychology. Healthy attachment to care givers is very important especially to a child and healthy attachments to partners, friends and family also play a big part in our happy healthy existence. But the key is understanding their limitations. It’s when you OVER- estimate the happiness those relationships can bring that causes all the problems, addictive and possessive traits start to appear and unhealthy consequences ensue.
Therefore, in all situations a healthy dose of wisdom understanding the limitations of that happiness is needed. You don’t have to give up all the people and things you love just to experience the illusive inner peace me and others constantly harp on about. You just need an understanding of the reality of the situation. 
The Buddha tried to give up all attachments by leaving his community, friends and family to meditate constantly in the forest with wise men. But he eventually discovered that was an extreme to be avoided and it made him weak and no closer to enlightenment. He recommended a middle wayavoiding the extremes of austerity and poverty and the other extreme of hedonism and addiction.
The middle way is giving up the extreme of believing pleasurable experiences will bring you lasting satisfaction and also letting go of the idea  that giving away everything will bring you peace. In other words, the middle way is giving up attachment and aversion. 
A powerful insight is to understand that your partner  “cannot make you happy”. This is simply taking responsibility for your own happiness and not relying on others to provide it for you. A relationship can be a joyous partnership, but it will go down hill very quickly if you rely on the other for happiness or blame them for your suffering or in other words have attachment and aversion present in your relationship.

What Is Aversion?

Overestimating the suffering a person, thing or experience can cause you. 

The other side of things is aversion. Aversion is believing you cannot possibly be happy if such and such is present in your life. We have many aversions to people, work and especially uncomfortable feelings. we project that it’s that person that makes me unhappy but on closer examination we will see in reality it has more to do with our reactions and not as much to do with others or the situation. 
Sometimes we are not overestimatig the suffering something can bring we are seeing the situation clealry. There are conditions that cause harm to people that can be avoided.
The balanced view of aversion understands there are things that are very toxic to the human condition that should be avoided. Having an aversion for cruelty or envirnmental degradation are examples of ‘healthy aversions’. I think it’s extreme to blame a tortured prisoner of war survivor for their suffering entirely. It’s not just their ‘story’ that continues to cause the trauma survivor’s suffering, the physical damage to the neurological functioning and nervous system is now beyond doubt in post-traumatic-stress-disorders. 
There is a middle way to understanding the suffering of aversion too. We can improve our conditions to enable happy healthy lives; it’s not just all about how you perceive the world.  
When I first heard these teachings about attachment and aversion twenty years ago I thought I could become a super-human enlightened person where absolutely nothing could harm me because my mind training was too powerful. I could eliminate all suffering just by reacting differently. 

Authentic teachers admit that after awakening there is still ups and downs in life and the pursuit of constant bliss is another delusion in the attachment category. 
The philosophy gets deeper and deeper the more you go into it and has profound implication to how we can skilfully navigate life but I would like to switch to the method part of this blog which is easy to understand and practice and give some tips for overcoming attachment and aversion. 

Meditation Practice For Overcoming Attachment & Aversion

Firstly, it starts with the acknowledgement that happiness and suffering are not entirely dependant on outer circumstances and that the way our mind perceives people and things plays a monumental role in our happiness. This is one of the first and most important realisations on the spiritual path and upon this basis we enter meditation/spiritual training. 
Things are never 100% bad or 100% good. Seeing the good in the bad and the bad in the good is another way to let wisdom in and avoid extreme views. The Yin / Yang symbol expresses the truth of this reality.
There are many ways to reduce attachment and aversion. You can try to cultivate equanimity. Not getting too excited over supposedly good things and not getting too depressed about supposedly bad things. In other words not attaching labels.

Something as simple as giving away material things you’re attached to can start to loosen the grip of attachment. Challenge yourself to leave your comfort zone and try things you have had an aversion to in the past. Or simply notice that things that brought you great joy in the past no longer have that effect, or things that scared you in the past don’t bother you anymore. Seeing the impermanence of the happiness and suffering supposedly brought on by things and people goes a long way to moving toward the understanding of how big a role your mind plays in shaping your experience. 
Finally, the meditation to practice is a mindfulness type of meditation. Where you sit calmly and find joy in doing nothing. Finding the natural joy of just being is a powerful way to discover the peace beyond conditions. You already have the potential within you right now to experience the peace and happiness you have been searching for. 
By letting go of attachment and aversion and simply experiencing the joy of the moment we empower an enlightened nature to manifest. This means letting go of all those projections about where you think happiness and suffering come from. Letting go of all projections which are actually your thoughts superimposed on the world around you. Finding the space between thoughts is a place naturally free of attachment and aversion. 
Try a meditation right now. First read this and then sit quietly with your eyes closed. Say to yourself: there is nothing I need to add or remove right now to experience the simple joy of being and then sit calmly for a few moments ignoring thoughts and concentrating on watching the breath. 

This article was originally published by The Way of Meditation


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on whatsapp
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts


Are Your Ultra-Spiritual Words Matching Your Actions?

If people see you are being a hypocrite due to saying one thing and doing another, your words will likely have the opposite effect. Think about how often there has been a well-known spiritual teacher or guru who has said something that sounds quite profound and insightful, yet then goes off and does something contradictory.


7 Life-Changing Lessons the Tao Te Ching Can Teach You

A long time ago, a wise man decided to write a book. His name was Lao Tzu, and the book was called the Tao Te Ching.
Not only one of the world’s oldest pieces of literature, it’s also one of the most profound and potentially life-changing.