I find that I often struggle with the idea of non-attachment and how to find a way to practice it in my everyday life. I bought a pair of Frye boots recently that are nothing short of amazing. They are a beautiful oxblood color with a really cool zipper on the side, and they fit me perfectly. And what makes them even more wonderful is that I got them for a fantastic price! This feels like true love, and I’m certain of our future together. Does that mean that I’m attached to them? More importantly, if the answer is yes does that make me a less enlightened person? What am I missing? I sought clarification from a few websites about Buddhism, most of which left me even more confused, until I happened upon a segment of a podcast called Secular Buddhism that was entitled “Understanding Non-Atttachment.” Perfect! According to its author, Noah Rasheta, “the type of non-attachment that’s being talked about in Buddhist thought has less to do with what you own, or with what you hold onto, versus how it holds onto you.” Hmmm. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. He expands a bit further by sharing the following quote from a source he does not identify: “Non-attachment doesn’t mean we don’t own things. It means we don’t allow things to own us.” The Zen masters all point us towards considering the idea that nothing is permanent. As long as we are attached to something in a healthy way that allows for the idea that it may someday no longer be ours, then we’re practicing non-attachment. So I can love my boots and feel a certain level of attachment towards them as long as I remain mindful that someday they may no longer be mine. If I try to assign permanence to my relationship with my boots, then I become a slave to them and to the idea of holding onto them forever. Make sense yet? Almost for me.
Let’s try this a different way. There is a parable called “The Wise Woman’s Stone” that goes as follows:
A wise old woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day, she met another traveler who was hungry. The wise old woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.
The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.
But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. ”I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”
The traveler is seeking to understand the source of the woman’s generosity. How could she willingly surrender something that is so very valuable? The answer lies in the fact that the woman understands non-attachment. Although she found the stone, she never claimed ownership of it, and never regarded it as permanent in her life. When the traveler asked for it, she released it to him, recognizing that the time had come to relinquish it, and that she would gain so much more by giving it up. Although she surrendered a material object of great value, she knew that the process of doing so would bring a spiritual abundance whose worth would be immeasurable. This is true whenever we practice generosity. We often view ourselves through a lens that is harsh. Giving gifts freely and thoughtfully, or giving of our time and compassion by helping or supporting someone in need allows us to feel far more positively about ourselves, thus elevating our spirit to a higher place. As with gratitude, once we know this feeling of generosity and the positivity it can bring about, we will continue to seek it. Additionally, since it is so closely tied to practicing non-attachment, we will suddenly find ourselves willing to let go of other things like anger and resentment, two negative emotions that deserve no permanent place in our hearts. Because the wise woman gave up the stone without hesitation, it found its way back to her, along with the man and his desire for her council and wisdom. In the end, both the woman and the traveler will find abundance, but only because of the idea of non-attachment and the generosity that naturally becomes possible when we finally grasp its meaning.
For today’s cocktail, I wanted to focus mainly on symbolism. As luck would have it the main herbs that comprise gin were perfect for the meaning behind this post. Angelica represents divine inspiration, an absolute must if we are going to be able to embrace this idea of non-attachment. Juniper is Angelica’s perfect partner because its wood is used in cleansing rituals that remove negative energy and attachment. It can be very difficult to find inspiration if our energy is blocked. Coriander helps us to uncover hidden worth, something so necessary if we are to understand the ways in which generosity gives back to us. Since I was already thinking about a Negroni riff, I decided to go with Bluecoat Barrel Finished for my gin because the minimum three months spent aging give it such an air of depth and seriousness. For the bitter component, I chose Cynar, an Italian apertivo made from a number of herbs and spices with artichoke at the forefront. There is a great deal of symbolism associated with this spiny vegetable that revolves around the idea of the deconstruction of old ideas. Consider the act of peeling away its troublesome outer leaves to get to the soft heart at its center. Finally, I decided on Dolin Blanc vermouth for the cocktail’s sweet component because I wanted it to lift or lighten the other two darker spirits. This is meant to represent the way in which our spirit feels elevated just by the simple act of giving. The three spirits blended together in the way only a Negroni can, but I have to say that I truly loved the the flavor of dried figs that came through seemingly out of nowhere, and the grapefruit peel garnish added a beautiful brightness to the drink. The question remains as to whether I have learned enough from today’s post to freely give up my beloved boots if someone were to ask me for them. I’ll get back to you on that… Cheers everyone. Happy Tuesday!
Add all the ingredients to a mixing class and stir with ice until very cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over one large cube. Express a grapefruit peel over the drink and garnish with it. Enjoy!