The Nature of Clinging

August 23, 2013


How is clinging related to desire and craving?

Desire arises selflessly and when we make contact with it finding it either pleasurable or averse, craving begins.  Clinging is a more severe form of craving.  Think of clinging as a child who wants something and after not getting her request, clings to her mother’s dress and demands it again in a loud probably screaming voice.

What is the paradox of opposites?

In the mundane (everyday) world, our mind wants us to favor gain, pleasure, fame and praise and to resist/avoid loss, pain, disrepute and criticism.  Through meditation, we come to realize that loss, pain, disrepute, and criticism are an inevitable part of life and that we must embrace all.  Phillip Moffitt in Dancing with Life addresses this paradox of opposites by quoting T.S. Eliot, “Teach us to care and not to care.”  Think of this as a triangle with caring and not caring on the bottom two corners.   Our mind favors moving to the favorable corner (e.g. caring, pleasure, etc.) and away from the other (not caring, pain, etc.).  Peace or equanimity is residing in the top corner which embraces all (life).

What happens with continual clinging?

Suffering.  Without letting go, one gets caught up in a vicious cycle – always wanting more of some and less of the other.  We are never at peace or satisfied.

How do we let go?

Moffitt notes that the Buddha’s instructions are to:

Care without demanding

Love without imposing conditions

Move toward your goals without attachment to outcome.

What this means is that you do not attach a future to your caring, loving, and moving toward your goals.  This is being present in the moment rather than living in the future, mentally suffering from imagined outcome which may never occur.

How can I practice abandoning clinging?

Practice mindfulness – have the courage to look at the way things really are in a non-judgmental way.  Notice how your clinging is affecting your bodily sensations and mental attitude.  Just be aware in the present moment and notice if your mind keeps taking you to the future or the past.


When you notice suffering, practice mindfulness as noted above.