Favorite Things and Cultivating Detachment

Thirty-five years later, I can still hear my roommate’s tragic voice and pronouncement: “That was my favorite bowl.” Linda enjoyed eating her salads and soup from the over-sized blue-glazed, handmade piece of pottery I had just accidentally shattered to bits. Apologizing profusely, I guiltily attempted to match the largest shards together. There was nothing to be done. While saying she forgave me, her big sad doe-eyes told me otherwise. I felt terrible. I also hated her a little for making me feel so awful. Perhaps it’s my guilt about being angry with¬†her¬†that keeps this memory so fresh in my mind.

Since then I have suffered similar losses of ‘favorite’ mugs, books, bits of clothing – ruined or lost by others. I always remind myself to try and let the thing go and not to amp up the guilt the way Linda did. Accidents happen. I live where it’s easy enough to shop for a new ‘favorite’ to fall in love with, to infuse with new memories and tea stains.

These musings were brought on by hair-line cracks I recently discovered in my favorite tea pot. My attachment to this thrift-shop find is merely that it is beautiful and made in Italy near where Molly was born. See how lovely it is?

teapot 1

It’s so easy to infuse meaning and sentiment into anything. While this is a nice pot, I have a back-up, Less charming but certainly as functional for my morning brew.

teapot 2

I remind myself not to get too attached and yet, surrounded as I am by so many things, sometimes that’s a challenge. But definitely not as hard as it once was.

According to Buddhism, the origin of suffering is attachment. I railed against this non-attachment stuff as a twenty-something woman living in Kyoto and longing for love. I associated this way of being with lack of passion. Of course it didn’t help that I had an unrequited crush on a strapping, young, handsome American man who had just emerged from a year of living in a monastery. I really wanted to crack his detachment…

Decades later, I get it. After a while, accumulated losses gave me a new appreciation for non-attachment. Eventually, these kind of scars turn into well-worn tracks of the heart, weirdly making it easier to navigate the next time. And there will always be a next time – be it large or small. Broken bowls? Cracked tea-pots? Eh.

The beautiful teapot does not seem to leak – not yet – but I’ve stopped using it since discovering the cracks. But why should I? Without use, it will become invisible to me, it’s importance will fade. I know I could put a plant in it, turn it into something else. I never really do those things – it would sit and gather dust and be forgotten.

I think I’ll just keep using it until one day, the boiling water seeps through and floods the counter. It won’t surprise me – not really. Until then, I’ll work on letting go and have another cup of tea. And if it cracks on R or Molly’s watch, I won’t blame them.

10 thoughts on “Favorite Things and Cultivating Detachment”

  1. This is a lovely reminder as I am feeling the need to purge my home-we seem to always need periodic reminders-I was a car accident 30yrs ago that robed me of an apartment, job etc- my sister packed up my home and asked if she could decide what to trash, what to save-and use my furniture-I trusted her knowledge of me but it was a huge lesson is understanding that we assign meaning to things and rightly so, but they are but temporary- i am must better at letting go things with meaning but, still it takes time to really give away, etc. Thank you for writing this; I needed the gentle permission yet again…

  2. Tricia, I so identify with this post! After so many lost special objects I have really had to cultivate the skill of “not caring” or not caring too much for things. I love reading your blog!

  3. Love this meditation on stuff, on a teapot you are fond of, but are letting go of. Sometimes things are more than just things…I too am in a phase when I want to clear stuff out of my home. Though getting the time to do that is another matter.

    Also don’t forget to resubscribe to my new website because it’s a whole new gizmo than the other one…

  4. Just today I was looking at my tea cups today wondering about a few I tend to push aside and collect dust in the back of the cupboard. I’ll actually wash and dry one or two over and over again instead of using the striped one or faded logo one. Maybe time to purge and make room for new favorites…

  5. Beautiful writing Tricia – the words flow with lovely rhythm and the message is a wonderful reminder. And I do love your teapot! XO

  6. Lovely post, Tricia. I to struggle between deep attachment for special things that give me pleasure and the desire to detach, to hold them lightly, and let go graciously, when needed. There’s an old saying I think of often about “swimming across the river without getting wet.” It’s a koan, like the one about one hand clapping. But what’s interesting to me is that detachment isn’t about not getting into the thick of things, swimming across the the river, or not desiring to get to the other side. There’s no detachment, in a way, without attachment first. It’s more about balancing the two, maybe holding both lightly. Something I wish I could do more.

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