I think the Mets really wanted to win the World Series last night. I don’t think a single member of the Mets organization was not attached to the outcome of winning the game and eventually the series.
[For the non-baseball followers, the Kansas City Royals won the World Series last night with a phenomenal come from behind in the 12th inning.]
When I watch a sports game or hear about a new and exciting business idea, I don’t think the players on the field or in the boardroom have any intention of failing. Both teams want to win. No one starts out to fail. Yet the concept in Buddhism of non-attachment is sometimes understood or discussed as if it means not caring about the outcome.
“Oh, I don’t care if I win or lose, I’m so Zen, if doesn’t matter.”
Well, please don’t play on my team!
I don’t think that’s a fair interpretation or understanding of the teaching. We set goals, we have objectives that we want and often need to meet. We work hard at them and to suggest that “we shouldn’t care” misses the point.
The question we should ask ourselves is “who am I if I win?” and “who am I if I lose?”
That’s very different from saying “I’m not attached, so I don’t care.” I’m working on a project right now, a new meditation app (more info coming very soon) and I’m very determined to have it succeed.
I want it to work. Why would I spend time and money if I didn’t want it to work and be successful?
But again the real question is, if it works, who am I? If it fails, who am I? That’s the essence of non-attachment.
Disappointment in a loss and exhilaration in a win can be good healthy responses in the moment. But they don’t define who we are, we are not “losers” or “winners.”
The teacher Adyshanti writes:
Who would I be if I wasn’t looking for others and outside circumstances to bring me happiness and freedom I am yearning for?
That’s the essence of the practice. We win, we fail, but the outside circumstances aren’t determining my fundamental nature. The results don’t determine my freedom.
Take a moment to reflect, when you think about a project or a goal, “who are you if you succeed?” and “who are you if you fail?” A reflection on those questions is the essence of non-attachment.