Written by Suraj Shah.
We consider possessions to be extentions of our own bodies – when cherished items get damaged, we foolishly feel the pain.
How did you feel when you last dropped your phone?
Yesterday I’d just parked up, got out of the car to head into a friend’s place, and was rummaging around for my phone. At first I couldn’t feel my phone in my pocket, so I thought I’d left it in the car. Turns out that it was in amongst a pile of books that were in my arms. Immediately I heard something hit the ground.
I looked down, and thought: “Shit.”
Possessiveness plagues the mind
The phone had hit the filthy hard tarmac head-on – and the phone was now in three pieces.
I stopped, picked up the three pieces (main phone, back cover, and battery), decided I wasn’t going to let it ruin my evening, put the phone back together again, inspected it for damage, put it in my pocket and then walked into my friend’s house. In fact, I felt quite proud of myself for being so calm about it.
But whilst I was with my friends, I still had worries run through my mind:
- What if the phone doesn’t work properly anymore?
- How could I be so clumsy?
- I still have 10 months left on the contract before I can get an upgrade – can I afford another phone?
- I depend on my phone for web access to work while I am out and about – will this now confine me only to where there is web access at fixed locations?
- How will clients perceive me if I am using a dented phone in front of them?
- My phone’s not insured – should I get insurance now and claim the damage on it?
Manifestation of anger, greed, ego and deceit
When we drop something that we are attached to, a number of feelings naturally arise. We feel annoyed at ourselves for dropping it. We feel like we NEED to have a replacement immediately . Our ego is dented, by seeing ourselves as clumsy, and by what we think other people will think of us when we walk around with a damaged item. We may even consider telling a lie to blame someone else for the damage and try to wangle a new item through insurance.
The nature of the phone is to change
The fact is that the phone was never going to stay in pristine condition forever. It’s nature is to change. It is made of matter that will inevitably change form and colour when external forces are applied to it.
So why do we place our happiness on something that, by nature, will not stay the same?
It’s because we consider it an extension of our own bodies. We have so much love for it, and what it can do, and how it can make us feel. When it’s damaged, it’s as though we ourselves are damaged – we feel the pain. When cherished items get damaged, we foolishly feel the pain.
Cultivating trusteeship to tame the pain of loss
So how do we resolve this pain we feel when we lose our cherished possessions?
The Jain concept of aparigraha is about non-possession. Broken down to a-pari-graha, it translates to:
- a = not / negate
- pari = outer / external
- graha = hold firmly
From the perspective of who we are at our core, our soul, aparigraha is about not having a firm hold on anything outside ourselves – this includes our possessions, our relationships, and even our own bodies.
Taking the example of the phone, it means simply being a trustee of the phone, rather than assuming full ownership. It is about looking after it, using it appropriately, and taking care to maintain it, but knowing that it will not stay with us forever, or that we may not be able to use it at all times that we may want to.
Extending trusteeship beyond the phone
What else can we become trustees of and how would that work for us? Can we become trustees of our cars, our houses, our jobs, our countries, our relationships and our bodies? What would life be like if we fully lived out non-possession?
(Photo courtesy of Pat Castaldo)