Obsession—we all struggle with it.
When the mind runs off like a Doberman chasing a squirrel, dragging us behind through the muck.
Despite a decade of mindfulness study and endless examination of my desire to find “The One” (this article nicely sums up many of my thoughts on “The One“), sometimes I still go batsh*t crazy over a woman. But I’m learning we don’t have to give in to obsession; there is an alternative.
When we stay present and practice detachment, we can let go of the crazy. A recent lesson from the universe showed me that detachment works; we don’t have to make ourselves miserable.
I met a new friend in my travels—we’ll call her Eva. She’s stunningly beautiful, and we easily fell into a comfortable connection with each other. We’re both quiet and socially awkward, and we share a passion for music, dancing, and writing. We grew close sharing our struggles to find our path in life. She’s also half my age and we live in different countries, so I want to be friends with her—just friends.
Yet, I could still sense the obsession stirring, my mind itching to spin into overdrive. We all know that feeling—the currents of subconscious swirling underneath the surface, the urge to give in to that familiar rush.
I’ve been down that road before; I’ve learned this lesson many, many times. Instead of obsessing about Eva, I’m focusing on myself. I’m staying in the flow of my life, pursuing my interests, rather than trying to engineer excuses to cross her path. Sometimes our lives flow together and we enjoy each other’s company, and other times we don’t.
This is what detachment means to me: enjoying positive experiences, and then letting them go. We can resist the temptation to cling to the feeling, to try to recreate that same pleasant sensation. We can choose to savor the experience in all its richness, and then move on.
A few nights ago, my new resolve was critically tested. There was a bonfire down at the beach, a dozen people under a radiant waxing moon, drinking, smoking, playing music, a little dancing. Eva and I deepened our connection when we discovered we’re both awkward huggers. We shared a deep body hug and oodles of belly-shaking laughter as we navigated through our awkward embrace.
Then things got interesting. The night wore on, and Eva started spending a lot of time with a young Danish guy—we’ll call him Emil. They were dancing and laughing, sitting close together, and talking intimately. As I noticed this, a few wordless emotions started roiling around my mind. I didn’t want to acknowledge these sensations, but they were distracting, sticky, hard to let go.
Subconscious feelings like this are an anchor, pulling us out of the present moment and into our heads. It’s impossible to feel the flow of our lives when we’re dragged down by this weight. When we try to force our way forward anyway, we struggle and we suffer. Rather than fighting the anchor, we need to examine it, uncover the hidden lesson.
I realized I was fighting the anchor, so I retreated from the group, farther out onto the beach. Solitude in nature is the sweetest balm for my soul. I explored the beach, expansive at low tide, glistening in reflected moon-glow. Soaking in the magnificent beauty, feeling the vastness of the stars, I allowed the emotions to surface.
Jealous. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was feeling jealous. Eva was sharing an intimate moment with someone else, and I wasn’t. I dug further: why am I feeling this pang of jealousy? She’s my friend, she’s having fun, I want her to have fun. If I’m really trying to change this aspect of myself, now is the time to put it into practice. I can obsess about this and stir myself up into a miserable mess, or I can let go and accept the situation as it is.
I took a few more deep breathes, inhaling the grandeur of my surroundings. I’m f*cking tired of riding the crazy bus; I know exactly how that drama ends. Eva and I had our moment, it was fantastic, and now it’s time to move on. Detachment. We don’t have to get on the crazy bus; we have a choice.
I rejoined the group and focused on finding the flow of my life instead of obsessing about Eva. A few other people and I reveled in a rendition of “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes (you know the song, heeeeey yaaay yaaay, what’s going on). It was deliciously fun, creating that experience with other people.
This was a critical test; the night could have ended in a trainwreck. I could have let my mind run wild and create an unpleasant experience for everyone. Instead, I used all my mindfulness training to examine and release my feelings, and I found my way back into the flow of my life. This is our path out of suffering: allow the emotion to arise, then let it go. Detachment.
Now Eva and I are friends, and our friendship continues to grow. The joy that brings me far outweighs the short-lived satisfaction I would have felt had I acted on my childish impulse.
That’s the best we can do with the crazy hiding in us all. We can’t suppress emotions; all we can do is examine them and try to untangle the root. When it flares up, let it flare, but don’t let it run. Feel it, examine it, breathe into it, then let it go. We don’t have to let the mind obsess and drive us crazy. We have a choice!
How about you, dear reader? What drives you crazy, and how do you handle it?
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