My iPhone, Myself

Attachment is a big issue. Especially in India.

Attachment is a big issue. Especially in India.

It is best to practice a mindset of non-attachment, especially in India.

Apparently, India is one of those places that makes your personal ego “stuff” move and shake. Like your attachment to people, ideas, your identity, your things, relationships, your health etc. Several people have reiterated this, especially my teacher Heather who, as way of introduction to apigraha [non-possessiveness], one of the yamas [moral codes] from the Yoga Sutras, told us a story that goes something like this:

When she first arrived in Goa, she stepped onto the beach close to where she would be staying and her precious gold toe-ring slipped off and disappeared into the sand. She spent hours combing the sand looking for it but it was gone. Pondering attachment to material things she eventually went back to her shack, writing it off as one of those lessons India teaches you. Despite this seeming yogic resolve to be non-attached she continued to look around the spot on the beach where the toe-ring had disappeared. On her last day, she went back for one last look and there it was, emerging from the sand. Ecstatic in the cab on the way out she phoned a friend to tell them, only to realize she had left her passport and credit cards under the mattress of her beach shack.

Nuria Reed
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Nuria Reed

I bring this up because recently I have had some experiences with the lessons of non-attachment. I came to India with only a few precious possessions: My iPhone, my vintage Ray-Bans that I found in a thrift store in Berkeley, and a necklace that was a gift. Thus far I have lost two out of the three items. In classical yogic philosophy, stemming from Patanjali, the yamas and niyamas [observances] are the first two of the eight limbs of yoga. Asana [postures] is the third, pranayama [breath] the fourth … and apigraha, the last of the yamas, it is a state of non-grasping, of not coveting that which is not ours or essential to our spiritual practice.

The Buddhists also practice non-attachment. In a simplified form it is a way to avoid suffering in life – to be non-attached to both pleasure and pain, and things that cause pleasure and pain, and let them flow through as part of life but not part of you. It sounds so simple and in fact it is quite simple, but oh-so-difficult to put into practice.

In anticipation of spending another month, or possibly more, in India, I wanted to get my iPhone to work like a regular phone, not just a mini-computer that I relied on heavily for skyping, writing articles, emailing, looking up information, taking photos, and generally feeling very very attached to. Not realizing that, for reasons I won’t go into here, getting my phone to work in India meant getting it illegally unlocked, I dropped it off at the mobile phone shop. Why I chose to mess with something so precious, that I relied on so heavily, is still a mystery to me. A few hours later I picked it up only to find it in some strange state of purgatory, erratically turning on and off, heating up and completely unable to do any of its previous functions. I was told that I had to call my carrier in order to fix it.

With a sickening feeling, I rushed home and spent the next three hours on the phone with Apple Care and AT&T. After multiple attempts at restoring the thing I was informed that yes, it was dead, and yes, I would have to buy a new one since illegal unlocking is not covered by my warranty. Shocked, my mind immediately began racing. How will I stay in touch with people? How will I write my articles? How will I take photos? How will I do anything without my precious iPhone?! My iPhone was in so many ways a microcosm of my identity. Everything was there, my preferences, emails, photos, music and ability to connect with people. To have it die was to sever ties and be really present here in India.

Grudgingly I acknowledged that people still wrote articles and took photos before the iPhone existed and that perhaps this was a lesson in disguise. Being non-attached to material things is so much about letting go of our attachment to our ideas of who we think we are.

We graduated yoga school on Friday and headed to the beach in South Goa for a much needed break from schedules and yoga. Patnem beach is beautiful, the water is cleaner and warmer, the crowd is mellow, the beach shacks are cheap. Carrying a broken iPhone around is pretty ridiculous and I have resolved to send it home, but part of me still hopes it will start working again. As I lay on a sunbed on the beach, thinking about my next article and how yogic I feel all non-attached and what not, I roll over my vintage Ray-Bans and crush them. I guess I still have some lessons to learn about attachment!

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