living spectre: an american horror story

In an exercise of vairagya, non attachment, I embarked on challenging myself with what true attachments I had in my life. To my surprise, I found that making donations, giving up my car, money and sharing my things with those in need came easy. But what I hadn’t yet tackled was the crown jewel of my possessions: my million dollar house on the water.

Growing up, we were a denucleated family who handily moved every year. Numerous times, I was pulled out of school and shipped off to the other side of town forced to reorient, make new friends and catch my footing. By eighteen, I had attended six schools and moved thirteen times. Oftentimes, we moved in with other people: grandparents, wealthy friends with big houses, and in the schism driven by divorce, frequently displaced into the occasional transition housing, townhomes and apartments. I kept lovingly packing up my records, my monster book collection and stuffed animals. It felt reasonable as a young girl to cling to something that felt emotional gravitas. For me, that was the Smiths and Aristotle.

Our consciousness creates and mimics patterns from our childhood in posits unbeknownst to us. I continued this pattern of perpetual displacement as a young adult, moving every year or so from college through 2002 when I purchased my third house. By design, this house was just another investment, a flip and sell like my other houses.

Impractical, larger than any one human needs, I remodeled, I updated, I did my displacements by constantly moving around and changing out rooms, their furniture, where I hung my massive art collection. If my house comprised 14 rooms, I moved about fourteen million times, changing which rooms I slept, in which room would be my office, etc.

A few times I had listed my house on the market to test attachment and everytime I felt the universe was guided me to pull back, it wasn’t the right time. Fifteen years cruised by in the domestic nostalgia of musical chairs when abruptly I made the choice to sell my house. It sold instantly over Thanksgiving weekend and forced out sooner than I wanted and feeling like I didn’t have the option of backing out, I packed up again. Only this time it hit me like a ton of bricks, like the culminating moment of a horror story. The root of my attachment was not the brick and mortar nor the foundation of the physical house; it was my attachment to finally claiming a space called home and the repressed sorrow and fear of uprooting once again.

So psychic spade and trowel in hand, I dug up twelve years of memories, the bringing home of my daughter, the completion of my first novel, the death of my dog and packed it into boxes. I put a post up on Facebook to the Seattle Yoga Community: need or want anything? If I have it, come get it, it’s yours. My house was cleared out within days and I still felt fine.

Once the house was empty, and the mowing trucks had cleared out, I did my final walk through, saying my goodbyes and blessing the space to the new owners. The last room was my meditation room and when I walked in, the room was practically vibrating. It was a solitary moment when I realized that my ojas had created something quite powerful in that space. That staying in one place (the yoga room never changed in the twelve years I was there) and doing the work of yoga had tangible ramifications. It was so hard to leave not the house but that feeling of my own essence. I built this!

As I went out the door for final lock up, I looked back into the kitchen and saw what appeared to be a ghostly apparition of myself in front of the stove. It paused and looked in my direction and smirked playfully. I froze for a moment, said thank you and left. As I left in the physical form, I realized my energy body or representation of it was very much still entrenchment, in the thick of everyday living. Not own did I create the ojas; they ran the joint. It took months to articulate this moment without breaking into tears among my family and friends. In spite of all the chaos of my childhood, this wrenching carried a devastating blow. It’s been two years, and I still feel a part of me or my ojas still resonates in the halls of that house. I feel guilty like I am a living ghost, still well versed in the intimacy of the house. I dream and travel back into home; none of my things are there in the canvas of my mind, but the seeds of my attachments are. I suspect the new owners don’t feel things bumping in the night or find a pyramid of dining room chairs stacked up to the ceiling but parts of my grieving soul have not yet been willing to leave. When I am willing to depart the premise, I cannot yet say with certainty.

How do you break tethers of attachment when you are an unwitting specter, when letting go also is ripping out a piece of your soul? Soul ties are the trickiest from which to detach. Vestigial phantom that I am by no intentional design of my own but merely a byproduct of a broken heart, I come back to the mat, the mobile meditation space of hotel room du jour or the rooms in my apartment, and breathe in:  focusing on the practice of surrendering, doing the svadhyaya to see my attachments for what they are, and mourning what has felt like a small death. It’s from this small death that I can begin a new life where my sense of home is not bound to my sense of self and that the ojas I build through the practice can carry on with me wherever I may go.

Not all attachments are in the physical realm but the psychological and emotional bodies where they may lay dormant from past lives or childhood, and those may take longer to locate, navigate and heal. With each day when I think about my house, my beautiful life there, the powerful farewell, my breath is becoming much deeper, my heart less heavy and the fortitude of my practice continues to blossom. Don’t worry, Carol Anne, I am no longer afraid of the light. 

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