The ring of non-attachment

I recently went out to dinner with my boyfriend, Tom, and a few other friends. I had started a juice fast earlier that day and was feeling pretty tired and mellow that evening. To make sure that I kept myself on the juice fast and didn’t cheat, I brought my juice to dinner. So, I was drinking my juice as my friends were enjoying solid foods, beer, and scotch. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind and felt stronger as I stuck to my juicing.

One thing that comes from my juicing is that I’m constantly peeing! So a few moments after we sat for dinner I went to the restroom. As I was washing my hands in the bathroom the ring on my left middle finger flew off and went right down the drain! In shock, I yelped and with a wide open mouth looked straight down the black hole of piping to see nothing but the abyss. I was simply stunned that that just happened. My brows furrowed and I thought ‘really? really, that just happened?’. My mother’s beautiful ring that she lets me borrow just disappeared down the drain of some random restaurant’s sink – and I was completely sober! For some reason I feel like I could have been more understanding of this happening if I had been drunk. I guess it would be a way for me to excuse my clumsy behavior.

Anyway, I slowly walked back to the dinner table with nothing going through my head other than ‘did that really just happen?’. I sat down, took a deep breath, didn’t mention anything to the table, and realized the best action I could take right at that moment was to tell someone at the restaurant about it and call my mom.

In the hopes that the sink could be opened at that moment, I found a waiter and tried to find a manager to talk to. I was surprised by the lack of concern or even sympathy by the waiters, waitresses, and hostess. They refused to direct me to the manager. It was like I told them I dropped my fork and needed another one. It was as if each person who worked for the restaurant had a flat affect, no emotional reaction whatsoever. Basically, they said there was nothing they could do as they would not disrupt service to the bathroom – which I understand, it was a busy Saturday night after all. I guess I just expected a little more sympathy or concern.  Plus, there was another bathroom for customers to access. The only option I had was to write my name and phone number down, and they promised they would call me the next day.

I felt so terrible that I lost my mother’s ring. It was 10pm and very late for me to call my parents, but I knew I would only feel okay once I told her what happened. I hate to wake up my parents for a minor thing like this, and the fact that the next day was Mother’s Day didn’t help! But, I knew that I would be able to relax and hopefully detach from the guilt once I spoke to her.

From the moment this ring snafu began I had not felt like crying, but the moment my dad picked up the phone and I asked for mom, I started crying. I was so terrified that she would be angry with me; it was as if I turned into this small ball of an insecure twelve year old. My perception and fear of what she would think caused me to weep. I have a very close relationship with my mom and feel so lucky because of it. It is not like she has ever yelled or become extremely angry with me over something like this, and I am not sure where my fears of her being angry with me came from, but they all came bubbling up to the surface that night.

My mom thought at first that something very bad had happened, which is a normal reaction when your daughter calls at 10pm crying. She was so kind and supportive when she realized it was simply that I had lost her ring. My mother comforted me and made sure that I had friends around me to help support and cheer me up. Her kind words, truly not being attached to or caring about the ring, and being happy that I was okay, allowed me to also become unattached. My tears and guilt fell away, and I went back into the restaurant to be with friends.

When I made it back to the table and told Tom what happened, I think I was still in shock, and everyone at the table reminded me – there was really nothing we could do until the next day when we could get into the bathroom with a plumber. To help me feel better, my friends were coming up with different plans to help save the day. My favorite plan they came up with was going out to buy a wrench, sneak it into the restaurant, and have a whole covert operation of taking apart the sink, getting the ring and having no one but our table know.

Comforting words from my mother and friends allowed me to breath deep and relax with the fact that there was probably a big chance that I would get my ring back, and at the same time I realized if I didn’t get it back, I was okay with it. If it was meant to be mine again it would be.

This event ended up becoming a beautiful lesson in vairagya or non-attachment. The beginning of the explanation of non-attachment shows up in Sutra 1.12: Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah (These mental modification are restrained by practice and non-attachment). So, through practice and non-attachment you begin to be able to maintain thought control – and that is why I am glad that I was in the middle of a juice detox because I had a lot more willpower to keep myself with the understanding that it wasn’t the end of the world. Once the ring went down the drain there was nothing for me to do, except tell someone, have someone open up the pipes, and then let go of whether or not the ring would come out.

If this had happened to me a few years ago I probably would have gotten drunk, cried for a long time, and been upset for days after, but what good would that have done? What yoga has taught me is that I don’t have to react; I can witness and observe what is happening and then decide how to approach the situation. Yes, I did cry at first, but the length of time that I wept was much shorter than it ever would have been years ago. I didn’t fight my emotions, but allowed myself to feel the guilt, sorrow, and eventually contentment with the moment.

When the restaurant opened on Sunday I was teaching, so I had Tom go to the restaurant to meet a plumber who could open up the sink. I expressed to Tom how important it was for me to have him there taking care of it, and he did just that. Tom was the perfect person to have at the restaurant that day because his passion (which I love) often leads him to exaggerating a little. His skillful exaggeration is exactly what was needed to get the ring back.

Tom had to wait for the plumber, who ended up being 1 hr and 45 min late, so late that the restaurant manager wasn’t going to let them continue with the process because people would be coming in for dinner soon as it was almost 6pm. Mind you this was not the only bathroom, and not many people actually have dinner at 6pm in Manhattan! Anyway, through my boyfriend’s strong personality and ability to drive people to get their work done, he was able to get my ring back. His drive to get the plumber to do his job also came from the fact that my father called him during the plumbing situation. His phone call was not to instill fear in Tom, but as general questioning and concern on how it was going since he is a plumber by trade. His knowledge could have helped Tom if he needed it, but ultimately I think his call gave Tom even more fuel to explain to the restaurant manager why the pipes must be opened!

With Tom’s direction and perseverance the plumber found the ring! I am grateful to Tom for taking what ended up being a 3 hour endeavor to retrieve the ring. I think Tom would have been upset if the plumber wasn’t able to find it, but I had prepared myself for the chance that the ring was gone. If I stayed attached to the ring, I would only cause suffering for myself, and there are much more important ways to spend my time.

This experience reminded me to enjoy things at the very moment when I have them because at any second, things can change. It also reminded me that life is much more easeful when being a witness and not blindly reacting to situations. Even more crucial has been the lesson that I must wash my hands much more carefully and put my rings in my pockets if there is no cover on the drain! Just another reason to be fully present in every moment – so your rings don’t fly into the abyss.

Another important lesson from this event was that my perception of how people are and how I think they will react in situations are very different from reality. My perception and anticipation of my mom’s anger led to my guilt and tears. If I had not built up her negative reaction in my head I may have handled that situation much differently.

This ‘event’ was a short part of my long life. It was less than 24 hours of uncertainty over a material item. What a great lesson for me to practice non-attachment, being present, and that sometimes perception isn’t reality.

When attachment begins to blind and restrict you, it is time to notice and then just let it go. Next time you find your self grasping and attaching to something, see how you can soften around the edges. Non-attachment has much deeper levels to it but this can be a basic and small step to start the understanding and eventually you may go deeper, but this small step in non-attachment will translate into how you handle your relationships.
May we all live light, because everything is already okay.

Shanti

Liza