Lesson on Non-Attachment

December 1, 2009: Pohkara

On the final morning of my month-long journey through the Himalayas, I was laying in bed flipping through the hundreds of photos I’d taken. Each image would make me smile as I recalled the extraordinary views from the top of the world, the eye-opening cultural experiences, the fun spontaneous moments, and all the beautiful people I’ve met along the way.

I took many photos on this trip. My camera was the eye that captured moments chosen to become immortalized, cherished forever as souvenirs of a life-changing adventure. Every picture snapped felt like an achievement– a moment to be grateful for– and in my heart I was so excited to share them with all the little kids in my life, my friends and family and all…the blog, Facebook, etc. They were truly some of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life thus far, and many pictures surprisingly captured the magic.

But then life happened.

At the end of the day’s journey, my new Finnish friends–Kimoo and Heidi– and I took a taxi back to Pokhara. Just before getting into the cab we asked the driver to take a group photo of us. The picture was great– we all had big happy smiles and appeared proud of our achievements and relieved to be back in civilization. That was the last picture snapped on my camera.

So drained of strength and sick from the windy roller coaster roads, I sat in the back seat of the taxi feeling half dead. An hour later when we arrived, I was so ecstatic to begin celebrating the trek’s conclusion. The taxi come to a stop and we all begun piling out of the cab. And as I marched off happily towards my hotel, I was already thinking about the cold beers I would enjoy and the long hot shower I would take.

Once back in my hotel room I went to reach for my camera. But I knew it wasn’t in my pocket. I knew instantly that I’d left it in the taxi — right on the seat beside where I was sitting. My heart fluttered, an instant cloud of anxious sadness consumed me.

After a series of jumbled attempts to contact the cabdriver and recover the camera I have finally come to accept the unfortunate truth: it is gone.

That was yesterday. For the past day my mind has been troubled.

Part of me feels like it’s silly to mourn its loss. It’s a camera. The memories live in my mind and heart. My journal captured the details. Digital images are fun at first but then they disappear onto a hard drive never to be seen again. So who cares? Right?

The other part of me experiences fires of anger and sadness burning in me. Incredulous that they could be gone– all those wonderful memories.

All the while, in my head I hear the persistent words of Dali Lama’s teachings, which speak of attachment as the source of all suffering. I tell myself that the loss of a material object should not disrupt my peace. We part with nothing. And so we should live with this liberating awareness. Those teachings are being put to the test and I’m hoping that perhaps a breakthrough will emerge. For now though, I guess I’m still quite attached to my camera and the images I’ll never see again.

It’s just unfortunate because I should still be in the honeymoon period, celebrating this momentous Annapurna achievement.

I know i’ll get over it, but it’s a sad way to end this wonderful adventure. And I’m sorry to my friends and family that I won’t be able to share as much of this trip as I’d hoped with you.

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