And the bee comes
The flower doesn’t dream of the bee, it blossoms and the bee comes.
– Mark Nepo
I love this quote by poet and philosopher, Mark Nepo. It captures the essence of non-attachment in its simplest and most beautiful way. ‘It blossoms and the bee comes.’ There is no need for effort beyond the action. The flower is always, and can only be, a flower. The bee is uninvolved in the present-moment actions of the flower blossoming, and dreaming of bees won’t help the flower’s action. With this simple task-focus, there is no need for hope or fear. Everything is just as it is, doing its thing.
Why we love to focus on the future
It’s normal to get stuck in a goal-oriented mindset, focusing on the future or regrets and pain from the past. The truth is, neither of those experiences exist in the present. We’re just attached to them because they offer us a false sense of who we really are. But ‘who you are’ is (and can only be) you, right now, doing whatever you’re doing. This is real you, right now. Real-world, real-life, real you.
It’s easy to get lost in focusing on the next achievement, or how to make improvements. And while it’s certainly good to keep an eye out for Future You by making sure you eat well, meditate, cultivate your social circle, water the plants, etc — it’s important to do the actions with a sense of presence. Every action can be a delight. The feel of the things you hold in your hand, the taste of each morsel of food — when you are present in the action of everything, it’s almost as if you can connect with and respect the journey that’s present in each thing. From the soil and sunshine in a carrot to the spun and woven fibres of your T-shirt. In this way, every moment in the present is more wonderful than any past or future moment that’s locked inside the mind.
If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
The cycle of action-attachment
In yoga theory (the Sutras), there are two principles that offer guidance in this area. The balance of abhyasa and vairagya. ‘Abhyasa’ means practice – ‘an attitude of persistent effort to attain and maintain a state of stable tranquility’. It’s turning up every day – whether it’s opening your sketch book or going to class or putting pen to paper. Whatever your practice is, abhyasa means you roll up and give it a go pretty much every day. Its partner principle, ‘vairagya’ means non-attachment. Or, ‘learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true self’. And that means, once you show up at your desk, studio or easel, you let go of whatever comes out the other end. It means: the end goal is not yours to judge, the only thing here for you to do is the work. In flora-based metaphors, do the blossoming, don’t worry about the bee.
So do not be connected with the fruit of your action — just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord. This is a powerful spiritual practice.
– Ekhart Tolle
Bring it into your life
The journey to non-attachment is not simple and short. How could it be? It runs against the grain worn in by many years of our human culture. It is very normal, but as Ekhart Tolle puts it, it is also very insane. Adding a meditation or yoga practice to your daily routine can help to bring the nature of abhyasa/vairagya into your life subtly. Forgive yourself for judging yourself and try to slowly bring yourself into the present moment during your daily routines. Notice the weight of things, the smell, the sounds, the air.
It can also be useful to set a reminder to yourself everyday that you’re not there to judge or own the work you make, but that you just have to show up. Try sticking a post-it on your mirror saying ‘never give up / always let go.’