Part of life is having attachments. In relationships, we attach to our partner. We attach to our belongings and physical items that we love. We attach to places and ideas. We attach to our hopes and dreams. Ideally, life is a cycle of holding and letting go, but we become so attached that we can no longer see clearly. Our attachment can become so strong that we actually lose sight of the bigger picture.
Many spiritual teachings and traditions teach about the benefits of living with non-attachment. In Buddhism living with detachment is a sign of spiritual maturity. It shows that the soul has purified itself and evolved mentally. Now, the real question is, "Why would the average person strive to live with nonattachment?" Isn’t human experience all about being attached to each other, to those we love? Well, yes and no. When we can hold and release, we are able to build healthy connections. When we let go, we are releasing our need to control and releasing the conditional love that comes with attachment so that we can love unconditionally, being okay with whatever path life takes us down. When we live with non-attachment we can go with the flow more easily, and are not as impacted emotionally by the punches life may throw at us.
We often confuse connectedness with attachment. When we are connected with someone, they become a part of our life and us a part of their life; that is connection. Connection is a yin/yang exchange. This is healthy. Once we become attached, we become entangled. This is different from connection. Our energy and our thoughts become disproportionately focused on the thing or person we are attached to. The more entangled we become, the more we lose perspective. Attachment moves us into a state of need. Once we believe we need someone or something in order to be happy, we give away our power to the object of our desire.
Once we have attached to someone or something our perspective changes. We begin to perceive that as something we need in our life to make us happy. However, nothing outside of us can truly bring happiness or security. You are the one who decides whether you are happy or not in any situation. Once we become attached, we give away our power to be in control of our own happiness.
As the attachment grows, so does the fear of losing the very thing we desire. It is in the moments when we fear that the person or object we are attached to does not meet our expectations, or may be lost, that we experience moments of great emotional suffering and pain in our life. Our mind, in an attempt to save us from that potential loss, sends us into survival mode. We become hyper focused, obsessed, and often even addicted to the person or thing that we have attached ourselves to. We can become clingy, controlling, domineering and extremely emotional and insecure all in a desperate attempt to protect our attachment. Once we get to this space we are so entangled in the attachment we are out of balance, often reacting irrationally. None of this gets us to happiness and it does not make for a healthy relationship.
The good news is that all this pain and suffering is a choice. We can avoid this by choosing to let go and live with non-attachment. Letting go does not mean removing yourself from the relationship or letting go of your dreams. It does not mean withdrawing or never connecting with another again. It does not mean giving up on your dreams. Living with non-attachment means releasing your need for the relationship, thing or idea; It means accepting things as they are, knowing that everything is evolving and changing, nothing is permanent everything is temporary in life. It means letting go of the details and trusting in the Universe. When you can let go and practice healthy detachment, you are able to express unconditional love for our partner and are fully able to appreciate their presence in your life. You are able to see more clearly and be more objective. You are able to focus and operate at a higher level of productivity.
Being detached does not prevent you from having harmonious, healthy, and passionate relationships. It allows you to have those experiences. When we can live with non-attachment, we can live life with intensity and depth that we cannot realize when we are entangled by fears and insecurities. Once we release those cords of entanglement, we can make decisions from a solid place of wisdom and love.
We all have attachments. That is human. The goal is to be aware of attachments we have created or are creating and release them. The following steps will help you in letting go of attachments:
Awareness: Be aware of the attachments you have in your life. What are the areas where you have given up your power? Where fear and insecurity have taken over and are running the show. Where do you need to detach?
Examination: Step back and take a truthful honest look at your attachments. What is keeping you attached? What fears and insecurities are causing you to hold on? Are these fears real? What are you really worried about or afraid of? Dig deep and decide if you are willing to let go.
Forgiveness: If this is an attachment where you have been harboring resentment or negative feelings it is worth considering forgiving the person and yourself. As long as you hold on to resentments, you will remain attached and unable to fully let go. Once you forgive, you no longer need to tell the story. You are free to let go and move on.
Mantras & Affirmations: Choose a mantra or affirmation to repeat daily. Mentally repeat this mantra whenever you feel yourself falling back into old patterns or struggling with letting go.
Journal, Meditate & Pray: Set aside some time to contemplate how you are progressing. What was easy to release and what are you struggling with? Writing down your feelings is helpful in letting go. Meditating and praying about your intention also helps you to gain clarity about your objectives and barriers you are trying to overcome. Often when we dig deep enough we find that the actual solution is very simple; it was our minds that made it complicated. You may even want the formality of a ritual where you write a letter about releasing your attachment and then burn it, letting the smoke carry your intention to the Universe for help in letting go.
Patience: Life is a process and we all make lots of mistakes while we are learning from our experiences. Do not beat yourself up. You are doing the best you can. Sometimes change and letting go take time. Keep working the process. There will be ups and downs, but with time you will heal from the pain and find that with less attachment, life is more vibrant.
Build Your Foundation: If you become so entangled that you have no life outside of your attachment, now is the time to find one. If you leave an empty void where the attachment once was, and do not intentionally replace it with something else you may find yourself repeating the pattern over again. Get out and spend time with friends. Find a new hobby. Take a class. Whatever you choose to do, get busy and rebuild your foundation.
Find a Professional: If the attachment is so strong you feel you cannot do this alone, seek the assistance of a professional counselor who can support you and hold you accountable as you go through the process.
Learning to live intentionally with nonattachment supports you in maintaining your power over your own happiness. Be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. The pain of detachment is temporary. It will pass and you will be stronger and able to love more deeply from your state of non-attachment. Stay vigilant. Be consciously aware of attachments as they develop and flow through your life. Life is a series of attaching and releasing. You will avoid much suffering, and be clearer, happier, and more productive by simply letting go and learning healthy detachment.