There is a story told by the mystic poet Rumi:
An emperor who ruled vast lands felt depressed one day. However hard he tried, he couldn’t shake off the feeling. So he assembled the wise men to his court and sought their advice.
The wise men, for the fear of the tyrant, gathered together and had a discussion. They promised the emperor that they would forge a ring, which will make him happy in times of sorrow. The monarch agreed.
The next day, they came to the palace and presented him with a shining golden ring. The emperor readily wore it on his finger. Then he noticed something etched on top of the ring. The words read:
‘This too shall pass.’
Suddenly a wave of relief passed over the emperor. He read it again and again. He realized that the sorrows that he was facing were temporary and the phase will pass soon enough.
The story has profound implications for anyone who thinks about it. It can have both positive and negative effects on different people. It is a relief for some; for others, it gives grief. Relief for those who are in sorrow and grief for the happy.
If we care to take a close look at our own experiences, we can see that everything is fleeting. The happy moments, the sad occurrences and even the traumatic ones, which we thought will haunt us forever, passed. But we, the fallible human beings, got caught up in those moments, invariably causing us emotional turmoil.
So what can we do to avoid such moments which tear us apart? Maybe the right approach towards life is one of detachment.
Attachment and Misery
According to Buddhist philosophy, the world is in a constant flux of change. All experiences are transitory. Suffering is caused due to the human tendency to cling to these impermanent mirages.
Looking around us, we see people clinging on to things, hesitant to accept the flux of change. Money, power and worldly pleasures tantalize many and they stick on to it. However, materialism is not the only cause of attachment. Relationships, traumatic events and the fear of failure also make us vulnerable to it. We are all attached, in varying degrees, to something.
When you cling, life is destroyed; when you hold on to anything, you cease to live.
The modern world, which encourages competitiveness, applauds passion. Many achievements are indeed the result of the sacrifice of passionate people. But, be it in our jobs or everyday lives, passion can at once wreck our nerves and burn us out. It creates bonds that make us more and more attached to the transient world.
The more the attachment, the more the misery.
Does life need to be so emotionally charged? At best, this over-attachment can reward us with momentary success; at worst, it can cause nervous breakdowns. Then why should we invest so much of our emotional energy into life?
Hence, changing our perspective is crucial. Some measures can help us with this.
Take a step back and observe your emotions. It is a great way to understand yourself. With some effort, you can find out what makes you over-enthusiastic. Which criticisms hurt you more? What fires you up? Finding the answers to these questions is the first step.
2. Ask why
Secondly, find out why you are charged up about that particular thing. This may sound a bit psycho-analytical because it is. There might be a core problem that manifests through this over-enthusiasm. Finding it can simultaneously spare you from emotional outbursts and give you peace.
3. Do not be obsessed with success
We cannot always win. If we observe children playing, we see that those who accept lose with a good spirit enjoy their playtime more. Contrarily, sour losers end up in tears and quarrel more. When we perceive life as equal parts happy, confusing and sad, rather than trying to win every time, we can enjoy it more.
4. Deflate the ego
The ego is an obstacle in our path. Look at children. They never cling to any emotions. One moment they are crying, then laughing on the other. Their selflessness helps them forget everything and move forward. Similarly, we can deflate our ego and thus practice detachment.
On the train journey called life, many sights amuse us. We can enjoy it and move forward. If we get emotionally attached to them, it can cause suffering. It is a lesson to be learned.
“Remain in the world, act in the world, do whatsoever is needful, and yet remain transcendental, aloof, detached, a lotus flower in the pond.”
Anyone who develops the mindset of detachment can live through unexpected setbacks. For them, life is not a game to be won, but one to be enjoyed. That change in perspective gives eternal freedom from the phenomenal world.
Like the emperor in the story, we can escape from grief. For that, we need to accept the transient and relative nature of experiences and give up our competitive and clinging selves.
Let us be detached, relaxed and free from emotional turmoils.
Thank you for finding the time to read the article. Please feel free to share your thoughts.