Self Improvement

What is your harmonica? | A Lesson About Ego and Attachments

By: Melanie Masterson


One day I went to the Health Hutt here in Muskegon, MI for a vegan wrap and saw a guy with a shaved head and a little tuft of hair hanging off the back. I recognized him as a Hare Krishna guy and asked him if he was part of the Hare Krishnas. I started talking to him about a swami I met once named Radanath Swami and the book I read by him called The Journey Home. I told him my favorite part is where the swami meditates in the middle of the Ganges river on a rock for days with nothing but his harmonica. Then at one point he decides to give his harmonica to the Ganges. The Hare Krishna guy asks, “What is your harmonica?”

Wow, what a powerful question.

The swami’s harmonica was his last attachment to ego. The swami started out as a hippie traveling Europe for adventure then ended up in India giving up everything to become a sadhu. He found enlightenment from giving everything up. Now he is a well known swami who travels around the world leading kirtans and teaching others about compassion and love.

So, I had to think, “what is my harmonica?” I think it has been different things at different points in my life. Right now my harmonica seems to be career and money. Being without a regular job for the first time in 20 years has left me feeling out of place with a big gap in my ego. I am attached to the idea that I need to be something to be someone. I need to have a certain net worth to matter. It has been ingrained in me from my family and society since I can remember. I don’t think this means I should never get a job again and seek rice in a bowl for sustenance like the Buddhist monks do. But, maybe this is a period for me to let go of the attachment and embrace my inner essence. Then once I reconnect to my inner essence I will find a regular income but won’t hold on to it as who I am.

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It is often challenging for westerners to embrace eastern concepts. I think the best way for us to combine the two is to keep our material possessions, but learn to be less attached to them. There are many different things people can get attached to. The top picks are money and love. The key is to have these things but know they are not who you are. Sometimes it is good to be without for a while to learn this.

I know I had a long period of time where I was without a romantic relationship in my life. That really screwed with my ego. I continued to doubt myself thinking if I had no one to love me then I was not worth loving. Eventually I realized I was worth loving when I could love myself. I also learned I could be without a relationship and be okay. It was then that a wonderful man came into my life. And now I don’t cling to that relationship as my identity because I know that who I am is enough. That may be the essence of having with out attachment.

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