Attached to Our Possessions

When we were young, my brother carried around his blanket everywhere we went. It wasn’t really a blanket, it was a satin pillowcase. But you would never see my brother separated from his “blankie”.

In fact, even when it was hopelessly frayed with holes throughout, blankie traveled everywhere we went.

And if it temporarily got misplaced (such as when my mom washed it), my brother would cry until his blanket was safely returned.

As adults, we would never get so attached to any of our possessions. Would we?

Of course we do.

That’s the core nature of our ego.

We might refer to a child’s blankie as a security blanket. Something that helps the child feel comforted and safe. And when that item is taken away or threatened in any way, the child gets very upset.

The distress has nothing to do with the object, but rather our identification with it. The concept of “my”.

Something happened to my blanket.

What does it mean to identify with something? In a sense, we see it as a piece of who we are. A part of my identify. We endow the object with a sense of self. It literally becomes a part of me.

As we grow up, my blankie eventually becomes my car. Then my house. My body. My friends. My partner. My job. My money.

And the ultimate ego attachment: my life.

Not only do we completely identify with these “self” concepts, but we measure our sense of happiness based on how these “my’s” are doing. If my bank account is at a certain level, then I’ll be happy. If my partner does these things, or stops doing these other things – then I’ll be satisfied.

It’s an endless list of “my” requirements. Even when one of them is met, two new ones pop up.

We live in the service of a superficial set of “my” items.

Until we step back, realizing that no single set of “my” achievements will ever be enough, and open ourselves to the possibility that there’s got to be another way.

And there is.

That other way is recognizing who we are has nothing to do with our possessions – or lack thereof. I am not greater because of what I have, nor am I diminished in any way when some object is no longer – or never was – in my possession.

The Buddha described enlightenment as the end of suffering. All of our suffering is tied up in the sense of “my” and our judgements of various “my” items we believe are necessary to make us happy.

The truth is that nothing is needed to make us happy. Once we return our mind to our inner state of Being instead of the ego state of having, an entire realm of peace opens up to us. The path of perpetual suffering is transformed into the beginning of true happiness.

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Anthony Gold presenting the commencement address at
Penn State University - School of Graduate Studies.

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