Attachment is an innate part of the human experience. We tend to get attached to our emotional connections we develop with people, objects, ideas, and even our sense of self. While attachments are natural, they can lead to suffering when we struggle to let go. Attachment is for me our unwillingness to face a certain reality, for example: After the passing of my dad, my mom started to date someone new, my unwillingness to accept that reality created suffering for me. I do believe that by understanding the concept of non-attachment is key to achieving inner peace and liberation. In this blog post, we will explore the nature of attachment, delve into the practice of non-attachment, and discover how embracing impermanence can lead to a life of freedom and genuine love.
How Attachment Arises?
Attachment or clinging arises from our basic human desire for pleasure and avoidance of pain. When we encounter pleasant experiences, thoughts, or feelings, we naturally want to hold onto them and make them last.. When we encounter enjoyable experiences, thoughts, or emotions, our natural inclination is to hold onto them as we have a desire for them to last. Conversely, when faced with discomfort, negative thoughts, or unpleasant feelings, we instinctively attempt to evoid or suppress them. However, this desire of pleasure and avoidance of pain ultimately give rise to attachment , which in turn leads to suffering. The mind becomes fixated on holding onto pleasant experiences or trying to escape the unpleasant ones.
As I look at life, I notice that life tries to teach us detachment in so many ways. No animal or plant is attached to daytime or nighttime. There is no permanence in nature; after winter comes spring, and each season brings its own essence and beauty. When I look at my life, I also realize that neither good nor bad experiences last forever; everything seems to come and go. My perspective on each situation and how I handle it is becoming more important to me than the experience itself.
After taking in two children in foster care, my world changed, and I suffered because I was clinging to how things were or how I believed things should be. This is when I realized that we suffer when we cling to things, ideas, fantasies, and past experiences. Understanding how attachment arises is the first step toward cultivating non-attachment and finding lasting peace and fulfillment.
Life is like a river:
There’s no aspect of the river that’s permanent. The water that’s flowing is continually changing. The very edges and banks of the river are constantly eroding and sand is being carried away. If a big storm comes, and the water rises, the shape of the river can change. The water finds a new path and that becomes the new path of the river. So there’s not aspect of a river that’s permanent. Life is a lot like that. There’s no aspect of life that’s permanent. It’s when we get caught up in those moments of making things in life seem permanent that we run the risk of becoming attached. So when we attach to the permanence of things, then those things start to own us.
A practical example of how attachment plays out in my reality:
Some of the things I am still attached to are: I am attached to other people’s opinions of me. I am attached to how others treat me. I am attached to my lifestyle. Due to this attachment, thoughts of fear arise when what I am attached to can be questioned or take away from me. Due to this attachment, various thoughts arise. This leads to an inner dialogue, an inner conflict, for example, must I say this or not, must I do this or musn’t I? When I am attached to things, there is a fear of losing something, and this is when I experience worry and doubt. This worry and doubt reduce my enthusiasm, and this is when I become tired and drained. My attachments bring out a desire for me to control or manipulate a situation or a person.
The essence of non-attachment lies in understanding that it's not about what you possess, but how those possessions hold onto you. A recent quote captures the essence perfectly: "Non-attachment doesn’t mean we don’t own things. It means we don’t allow things to own us." This statement confronts our unwillingness to accept the impermanence of everything. When we cling to something, be it relationships, friendships, or even the fleeting moments of our lives, we create suffering for ourselves and those around us.
Non-attachment isn't about indifference or denying ourselves. It's a way of liberating ourselves from the chains of attachment, enabling us to experience life without being imprisoned by its fleeting nature. All things are constantly changing, when you hold onto something, and attach to it, it’s detrimental because that thing changes. It evolves and changes over time. Therefore, to truly comprehend non-attachment, we must acknowledge the ever-changing nature of all things. When we hold onto something physical, attaching ourselves to its permanence, we deny the reality that everything ends. This unwillingness to face impermanence leads to suffering.
When we talk about attachment, it's natural to wonder if it's acceptable to be attached to our loved ones: our spouses, children, or parents. I don't think we should have a negative connotation towards the attachment of our loved ones.
In the context of relationships, the wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh rings true: "You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free." This insight aligns perfectly with non-attachment. Loving without attachment means granting others the freedom to be themselves without imposing our desires upon them. Loving in a non-attached way is loving in a way that the person that you love feels free, and to be loved in way that you feel free is a way of being loved without attachment. So it’s not that there isn’t love, or that you don’t want to be with someone, it’s that you don’t allow that person, or that thing, to own you, because that’s attachment. So letting go of attachment is the secret to really enjoying life and to loving others. It’s a way of freedom.
I struggled to understand what it means to be detached in a romantic relationship. Then life gave me a relationship I was attached to. I was so attached to this relationship that I really struggled to walk away, even though I was mistreated and disrespected in the relationship. Being with the person seemed more important than being without them, so I allowed destructive behavior even though it caused great suffering.
After that relationship, being nonattached in a relationship means that I am able to recognize in a relationship whether it’s going well or not, I have the understanding that I can leave if it’s no longer right for me. I can love someone deeply, yet I’m also content with finding happiness on my own. I might want to be with that person, but I don’t feel like I have to be with them to experience happiness.
In essence, non-attachment is about embracing the fluidity of existence. It encourages us to let go of the illusion of permanence, liberating ourselves and those we love from the burden of attachment. By understanding and practicing non-attachment, we embark on a journey toward genuine freedom and boundless love.
Setting Goals with Non-Attachment: Embracing Impermanence and Adaptability:
Setting goals is a fundamental aspect of life, whether they relate to your personal growth, career, or various life stages. Goals provide direction and purpose. However, non-attachment does not imply a life devoid of aspirations. The problem arises when these goals begin to possess us, turning them from motivating forces into burdensome anchors. Impermanence is a fundamental truth of life—everything has a beginning, middle, and end. Understanding this concept is key to practicing non-attachment. Goals, like all things, are impermanent. They are tools, not anchors. You work toward them, achieving some and adapting to others when circumstances change. The wisdom of adaptability comes into play here. Life is unpredictable, and when it presents something new, having the ability to adapt and create new goals without being bound to the old ones is a testament to genuine non-attachment.
Freedom in Non-Attachment:
Non-attachment isn't about abstaining from desires or ambitions. Instead, it's a form of freedom—a way of perceiving life without comparison. Consider the present moment. What if we allowed it to be free, devoid of comparisons to the past or future? Without comparing the present moment to a previous moment, or to a future moment, we just allow the present moment to be completely free to be what it is. Right here and right now.
Non-attachment liberates us from the chains of comparison, enabling us to experience the present moment in its purest form. It's not that we attach ourselves, but the way we understand and cling to concepts that bind us. Non-attachment, then, becomes synonymous with freedom. To embrace non-attachment is to unlock the shackles of attachment and experience life as an endless, free-flowing journey, embracing each moment as it comes.
Embracing Impermanence Through Walking Meditation:
A powerful way to cultivate a non-attached mindset is to engage in a walking meditation, taking one step at a time. This practice involves recognizing the impermanence of each moment. With every step, acknowledge that it ends as soon as the next one begins. This continuous flow symbolizes the transient nature of existence. Just as each step is fleeting, so are our experiences. Practicing this understanding of impermanence can liberate us from attachment.
Identifying Ownership in Your Life:
Take a moment of self-reflection. What aspects of your life currently control and own you? Do you still have resentment or regret at something that happened in the past? Do you still have anger at someone? Take a look at your life and ask yourself “What is it that currently owns me?” Because if you feel a sense of something that owns you there’s attachment there. Acknowledging these attachments is the first step toward practicing non-attachment.
Rather than thinking of non-attachment as “I don’t own anything.” Or “I’m not going to have anything in my life” or “I have to give everything up.” Consider that non-attachment has more to do with not allowing the things that you do have in your life to possess you, or to own you. Think of it that way and then look for what areas, or things, in your life right now feel like they have a sense of attachment for you. By recognizing these areas, you take the first steps toward liberation. .
Quinton Mundell INC.
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