Attachment is the thief of the spiritual life.
Attachment keeps the spiritual seeker bound to this horizontal realm. It blinds us to the vertical dimension of mystery and light that in Christian tradition we see embodied in Jesus and believe is our true destiny as human beings created in the image of love.
The sign post that points the way beyond attachment directs the traveler to “die before you die.”
This wisdom is common to many spiritual traditions. There is a small self-serving person who lives inside me who must die again and again. This little tyrant wants to run the show. He wants desperately to protect himself. He is hard-wired to fight for his turf, to scramble for recognition and self-promotion. He is driven by what others think about him and always wants to make a good impression.
There is a lovely story from the fourth century Christian desert tradition that encourages the student to practice dying before the final day of physical life on this earth:
A brother came to visit Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, ‘Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved.’ So Macarius said, ‘Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.’The brother went to the cemetery and hurled insults at the dead. He threw rocks at their tombstones; then he returned to Abba Macarius and told the old man what he had done.Abba Macarius asked, ‘Did the dead respond?’The brother replied, ‘No.’Then the old man said, ‘Go back to the cemetery tomorrow. This time praise the dead.’So the brother went again to the cemetery and praised the dead, calling them, ‘Apostles, saints and righteous men.’
He returned to Abba Macarius and said to him, ‘I have complimented the dead.’
The old man asked, ‘Did they answer you?’ The brother said ‘No.’
Macarius then said to the brother, ‘You know how you insulted the dead and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wish to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.’ (SDF, 132:23)
it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)