I was at a holiday party once, where a white elephant gift exchange was taking place. There I learned a great lesson about attachment and greed.
If you’ve never been to a white elephant gift exchange, the way it works is everybody brings a wrapped gift and gets a number. When it’s your turn, you get to examine all the gifts everyone with a lower number than you has already opened. If someone has a gift that you want, you’re allowed to take what they have – or you may go to the front and unwrap some other mysterious present to keep. Of course, if someone with a higher number than you fancies the gift you selected, they can take it from you once it’s their turn.
In ten minutes at this party, I went from bored to excited to happy to distraught.
I am kind of bored, waiting for my turn, and nothing is striking my eye. But then, Al opens up a Ken doll (from Ken and Barbie), dressed like Professor Henry Higgins. Immediately I realize, I need this doll. I’m gonna take it from him, wrap it up, give it to my brother-in-law Bob as a gift, and it will be awesome.
My turn. I walk to Al, take the Ken doll from his hands, and sit down. Victory is in my hands.
Erin, who has a higher number than I did, comes over and takes the Ken doll from me! I am devastated.
When I had it, I was happy!
Now that I’d just lost it, I was upset.
On the bright side, while all of this was happening, I realized this was a microcosm of attachment. This sort of thing happens in our lives all the time. We are bored, we see something “shiny,” we want it, we desperately crave ownership of it — for a moment we are happy — then once we have it, we’re scared to lose it, and distraught when we do.
If it can be true with a Professor Henry Higgins Ken doll that I really didn’t even care about, it can be all the more so with something I actually do care about. My car. My favorite sweater. My dear friends. My relationships with others.
How attached we are to so many things! We consider them to be a part of us. Especially our precious sense of self.
The Buddha said attachment is our biggest problem and our biggest attachment is our sense of self.
Try not to be so attached.