Finding the Space Between Attachment and Aversion

In Mind Training by Ringu Tulku, one of the first lessons of the book focuses on the negative impacts of both attachment and aversion on our day-to-day happiness. While many of us that are even casually familiar with Zen principles are likely aware of the aim of avoiding attachment, the need to steer clear of excessive aversion in our thoughts is not quite as intuitive.

In Tulku’s words, attachment means “possessiveness and grasping as we fasten onto certain objects, people or experiences for gratification.”

On the other hand, aversion is described as “trying to eliminate upsetting things.”

Think about the things that you mentally attach to or are mentally upset by and therefore try to avoid in the workplace. Are you so attached to your morning coffee routine that half your day is thrown out of whack if it gets interrupted? Do you have such a negative opinion of one of your coworkers that you go out of your way to avoid him, and get instantly annoyed when a conversation strikes up?

Between attachment and aversion is a space in which you accept the flow of what comes to you, rather than striving for something in particular or running away from something unnecessarily. In the workplace, this will make you more adaptable, pleasant to work with, and could even provide you with increased opportunities to conquer new challenges that you had been avoiding before (e.g. leading a committee, taking on voluntary presentation duties, or even just speaking to your boss about something that you’ve been afraid to confront with him or her).

Practice: Start small: for 1 week, before you go into work each day, pick 1 thing you feel that you enjoy and may be overly attached to, and 1 thing you’ve been excessively averting. Force yourself to be mindful of both of these things for the entire work day. Set a couple reminders on your phone if you think you need the extra help to be aware of these aspects of your work that day. For the thing that you are attached to, make a note whenever you are desiring it, frustrated that you don’t have it, getting bored without it, etc. Write down your thoughts at that time – it can even just be one sentence. Do the same for the thing you’re trying to avoid, stressing about, getting angry with, getting annoyed with, etc. Forcing yourself to stop for 30 seconds and slow down your mind enough to write your thoughts down will gradually train you to recognize not only your sources of excessive attachment and aversion, but also the exact moment that they bring up negative emotions. For the daily item/person/activity of attachment, follow the writing of your thoughts with a reminder to yourself that “It’s okay if I do not have so-and-so.” For the daily item/person/activity of aversion, remind yourself that “I will not live in fear or anxiety of so-and-so.”

I hope you find these ideas useful and they make a positive impact for you in whatever your workplace may be. Remember, if you find these suggested practices to be valuable, please consider making a donation by clicking here. It’s quick and simple and all amounts are always appreciated! You can also follow the blog via email at the bottom of the page. Thanks for reading!