This is the third in the series Opening up the Heart and the Six Pointed Star
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back, the only path to serenity.
Tao Te Ching
Tao Te Ching
Desire and Attachment
Buddha taught that all is sorrow and desire that creates attachment is one of the main causes of our suffering. Just as we can create inner calm by noticing our breath and achieve peace of mind by not judging others, we could prevent sorrow and suffering if we could stop our desirous attachments resulting from our ego-grasping nature. Desire and attachment are closely linked as it is the desire for something that leads us to become attached to it. Desire without attachment can be quite healthy. It is ego that leads us to want and acquire "things," and through attachment prevents us from letting go. Its ok to have things but they should not have us!
In the wilderness we can come close to the hunter-gatherer model, since we are separated from home comforts, modern conveniences and status symbols. In spite of this, many of us are still attached to the technology of our equipment, and conversations can easily gravitate around what kind of tent one has or how much one's boots cost. This takes on new significance in third world countries where the local help are doing well in sandals and short pants in situations where the trekkers in the same clothing would soon be hypothermic or frostbitten.
Hunter-gatherers own little and share everything. The Kung Bushmen have a sophisticated system of gift exchange called Hxaro. Richard Lee describes this as a delayed form of gift exchange, which is not necessarily equal in value. In this way goods circulate around the group and there is less chance of someone feeling deprived. The size or merit of the original gift bears no relationship to the size of the gift eventually returned. It is the thought and intent of the giving rather than its value that counts. The Bushmen are more interested in the social interaction than the gift itself. Wealth was measured more by how many times one gave and exchanged than by how much one actually kept. Food and water are never exchanged, but freely given. Lee also stresses that gift exchange is not the same as barter.
The Quechua people of the Peruvian Andes have a similar system called "Ayni" although it is a form of barter. This means "Today for you, tomorrow for me." The idea refers to a work exchange rather than a gift exchange. One day I help you till your fields, and on another you help me build my house. Again, the exchange does not have to be equivalent. The penalties of not reciprocating are severe and the culprit is likely to be ostracized from the community. However, no grudges are held and the moment reciprocation is instituted all is deemed well.
One of the advantages of trekking in exotic places is the knowledge one gains of local customs that can help us Westerners with our strained group interaction and trivial complaints. The visitor who is reluctant to share toilet paper can benefit from this exposure.
When we return to the essentials of what is involved in being in wilderness we can detach from desire, connect closely with Self and let our judgments fall away. We need only emulate Mother Nature's neutral stance, since just as she does not judge us, we should not judge others.
Our pain creates judgment and physical pleasure strengthens desire, causing attachment to "stuff." If we can remain in the middle path, not becoming attached to pleasure or pain, judgment or desire, our management of these difficult hurdles presented to us by the lower chakras can be overcome and we can live more readily in the realm of the upper chakras.
The upper chakras above the diaphragm can be represented by the qualities of truth, awareness and being in the present moment. Each in turn occupies one of the points of the upper half of the hexagon of the heart chakra which itself signifies love.
Truth is an integral part not only of the trek itself but also is manifest in the talking or council circle where the group shares feelings, insights, thoughts and experiences in a milieu of honesty, trust and openness. The talking circle is one of the most vital components of this inner journey and is an entire subject on its own. Not only is it a way to heighten the group coherence but it is another way to connect to “the Field” or the Tao of nature.
Awareness is engendered by the intention of the group as well as gentle reminders of “inward bound” principles. To open our hearts we must be aware of and in control of our lower chakras and the sometimes undesirable qualities of, judgment, desirous attachment and ego. Once we modulate these, the heart opens and we connect with the present moment, truth and self- awareness through love. Now energy can move up above the diaphragm through the fourth, fifth and sixth chakras respectively, and ultimately to the seventh.