Week 48 – Living Without Attachments
“Impermanence is not something to be afraid of. It’s the evolution, a never-ending horizon.” Deepak Chopra
We’ve all heard the phrase of living life with “no attachments”. It’s been said that much of all of our struggles in life, from frustrations to disappointment, from anxiety to grief, from anger to sadness, all stem from the same source… Being too tightly attached to something.
But what does living with “no attachments” really mean? And is it such a bad thing to be attached to something or someone? Does it mean to live life with no connection to anyone or anything? Does it mean live a life where you are not bound or governed by the expectations put on yourself or expectations of others? How can we truly love without being attached? It’s a huge topic of discussion and one that is often difficult to wrap your head and your heart around simultaneously, and one we may break up into more parts for discussion.
First, let’s come to an agreement for the purpose of this discussion on what an attachment is. Of course we know in its simplest terms attachment means to be connected to something or someone. However, in the context of what we want to convey here today, we say that attachment is the emotional dependence we put on things, people, or circumstances, for some degree of our happiness. You can be attached to a person, attached to a material thing, or to an ideal. This is where being cognizant of attachments can get tricky. We are often attached to an ideal of how we want things to be, rather than accepting them in the wonderful way that they’ve unfolded. When we’re worried about something this is an indication that we are too tightly attached to the outcome of a situation. When we’re are frustrated with someone, it usually means they’re behaving in a way that we don’t agree with and we’ve become attached to how we want them to be, instead of allowing them to be who and what they are. The same holds true for anger, disappointment in others or a situation, grief and so on. At the root of it all is fear of loss, fear of being let down, fear of being uncomfortable, fear of how I might respond, etc. – We’ve become attached. This is not to say that we should be content with what we perceive as injustice, poverty, hunger, or anything we experience that undesired. But rather we should not allow our negative emotions be the primary source out of which we work towards change. Our desire to change anything should be from an inspired place of love.
Some would argue that these are just natural emotions. I remember a conversation I had with a friend who said, “I don’t want to live my life like that. That seems like I would have no feeling, no compassion, like I don’t care.” What I have learned along my journey is that the total opposite of this is true. I have actually found more compassion and more love, more appreciation when I consistently practiced living/loving without attachments. Because when I do, I release all expectations I have to outcomes. And in doing so, liberate myself from the dictates of other people’s actions or any circumstance that arises in my life. Remember: You have the choice to give significance to any circumstance or situation. You can choose to make it mean something that causes you to suffer, or not.
I was a successful real estate investor for many years and grew a very lucrative business buying and renting homes. I had amassed 45 properties and was booming in my city. I had invested my heart, my energy, and my spirit into being a successful real estate investor. Many people knew me and continue to associate me today with the business I had back then. My identity was tied up in who I thought I had become as an investor. Not to mention the persona, the things I was able to buy, and even some of the relationships I had developed. Then something magnificent happened. The real-estate market collapsed and over time, so did my business. This was devastating to me. Why? Because everything I thought I was at that time was “attached” to that business. I got very angry at what I perceived was the circumstances that caused this to happen. I was very angry at putting so much of myself into something that I viewed as real but actually was very elusive. I played the victim and wondered why in the world was this happening to me. At that time I was not as aware of the laws of the Universe as I am today, so did a lot blaming, mainly on myself.
What I learned:
- Never wrap my happiness, my identity, or my survival around anything or anyone. Of course we all know this, but the trick is being able to identify these areas and make the adjustment BEFORE the circumstance occurs.
- Oftentimes what you really want in life – peace, freedom, and joy – looks different than what you think it is. My business didn’t’ bring me real joy; it was just something I was good at. The real, true attachment is from within with my inner being. This can never be lost.
- Sometimes you have to know when to let go! And that letting go doesn’t mean giving up, or that you lost. It means now you’ve given the Universe a chance to deliver to you a new and different opportunity that you’ve been waiting for.
- Loving without attachment doesn’t mean we love less. It means we love with our hearts fully open, but we don’t hold to any sense of permanence.
That’s one of many of my stories regarding living without attachment. What’s yours? See, the first thing we must do is be able to recognize the unhealthy attachment. This is hard! Because often attachments are masked behind some good feeling emotion that only manifests itself when there’s loss or threat of loss. We’re attached to what makes us feel good, whole, complete, happy, etc. But if you take the time to become more conscientious of your life and what attachments you have that are unhealthy, they won’t be hard to find.
Identify something or someone that when you think about loosing it or them, makes you nervous; something that even the thought of losing creates anxiety with you. It could be your home, your career, your loved one, a business, or a even a situation. Once you’ve identified this attachment, now you can dive deeper into questioning and answering, what does having this thing I’m attached to represent. Once you can pin point a deeper meaning to what this thing truly represents inside you, then you can slowly detach by meditating on and visualizing your life being fulfilled even without the involvement of the attachment.