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Take a look at the society we live in. It is rotten to the core, infected with attachments. What is an attachment? An attachment is an emotional state of clinging caused by the belief that without some particular thing or some person you cannot be happy.
How is an attachment formed? First, there’s contact with something that gives you pleasure: a car, an attractively advertised modern appliance, a word of praise, or a person’s company. Then comes the desire to hold on to it and to repeat the gratifying sensation that the thing or person caused you. Finally comes the conviction that you will not be happy without that person or thing for you have equated the pleasure it brings you with happiness.
If you look carefully, you will see that the one and only thing that causes unhappiness is attachment. It is composed of two elements, one positive and the other negative. The positive element is the flash of pleasure and excitement, the thrill that you experience when you get what you are attached to. The negative element is the sense of threat and tension that always accompanies the attachment. Think of someone gobbling up food in a concentration camp. With one hand, he brings the food to his mouth; with the other hand, he protects it from neighbors who will grab it from him the moment he lowers his guard. There you have the perfect image of the attached person.
Do you have any attachments to people or things that you falsely believe you could not be happy without? Make a list of them right now. Spend some time seeing each thing you cling to for what it really is—a nightmare that causes you excitement and pleasure on the one hand but also worry, insecurity, tension, anxiety, fear, and unhappiness on the other. Father and mother? Nightmare. Wife and children, brothers and sisters? Nightmare. All your possessions? Nightmare. Your life as it is now? Nightmare. Every single thing you cling to and have convinced yourself you cannot live without? Nightmare.
There are even people who dread to challenge and lose a pet theory, ideology, or belief they are attached to. Do you want to know how to measure the degree of rigidity and deadness attachments cause? Observe the amount of pain you experience when you lose a cherished idea, person, or thing. The pain and the grief betray your clinging, do they not? That is why, when life bursts in to shatter your illusions, you experience so much pain. An attachment, by its very nature, makes you vulnerable to emotional turmoil and is always threatening to shatter your peace.
So how can you expect an attached person to enter that ocean of happiness called the Kingdom of God? As well as you can expect a camel to pass through the eye of a needle! Anyone who stops clinging to brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, land, or houses is repaid a hundred times over and gains eternal life. Then you will so easily take leave of your possessions, that is, you will stop clinging, and you will have destroyed clinging’s capacity to hurt you. Then, at last, you will experience that mysterious state that cannot be described or uttered—the state of abiding happiness and peace.