I will admit this is a tough post to write, and I haven’t even started to write it yet.
The reason it is tough is because of the words I’m using. Attachment. Non-attachment.
What do these words even mean?
When I think of “non-attachment,” an image of the Dalai Lama, with his gentle sweet smile and vibrant maroon robes, automatically comes to mind.
Yup. So not me.
Often I think non-attachment is for monks and nuns, for renunciants and minimalists, for people who get really happy when they see five identical shirt and pant sets or a single set of long maroon robes hanging in their closet every day for the rest of their life. Right?
So then I think attachment must be for me, with my vibrant closet packed with thrift store finds, including velvet tennis shoes in several colors.
When I think of “attachment,” I think of that time I lived in an ashram for six months and they didn’t allow pets. As if. The days when I would go anywhere for any reason if I couldn’t bring my precious trio along have long since passed, never to return.
And yet – non-attachment. It is alluring. I know I need it. For that matter, it is one of the primary lessons one of my favorite long-time mentors, Don Miguel Ruiz, teaches in two of his four agreements: don’t make assumptions, do not take anything personally.
Unfortunately, when I look back at my life to date, I see attachment everywhere.
I see attachment to people, pets, places and things. For the last 15 years, my primary “people” attachment was to my former partner, and when that dissolved early this year, it left a gaping attachment-vacancy in my life.
It is this vacancy, I suspect, that is behind one of my current most persistent recurrent dreams, where I am shopping for a new apartment but I have left it too late and bad housing-related things are about to happen.
One of my favorite new mentors, a young man who writes under the pseudonym of Yung Pueblo, has this to say about learning to live without attachment:
Why is it so hard to let go? Because the pattern of holding on has been repeated countless times. When all you have known is attachment it takes time to learn how to live in a new way.
Honestly, this makes me feel a little better. Because I have known endless attachment that has persisted basically from birth until the time of publication of this blog post. I didn’t even know there was an alternative to attachment until just the last few years. And I am finding it very hard to let go of any of my treasured attachments – at least without having new attachments that can slip right in and fill up the empty places.
Speaking of which, Yung Pueblo has this to say about letting go:
Letting go is not ignoring, forgetting or suppressing. Letting go is feeling the reality within ourselves with calmness so that we can observe our attachments and emotional history – when we can be with ourselves in calm acceptance the energy of the past melts away.
I like this. My mind is intrigued with the concept of simply feeling what is real now, today, in this moment.
My ancient survival-obsessed limbic brain likes it even better – the idea that it could observe this present moment calmly must mean there are no imminent threats and it can finally take that long-overdue break it has been craving for these last 48 or so years.
My heart is eager for anything that might facilitate a dispersal of the energy of my past. That energy, by and large, hasn’t been any kind of company any of us have particularly enjoyed.
So we are trying it. Together, we are experimenting with a firmer focus on “now” that could potentially ease our death-grip on the remembered energy of “then” and all its related attachments.
In calm acceptance of now, my mind allows people who haven’t wanted to remain in my life to peacefully stay gone.
With calm acceptance of now, my limbic brain stops repeating dire predictions of future loneliness and settles down.
While welcoming in now, my heart stays open to and hopeful of replacing yesterday’s much-missed attachments with today’s even better attachments that it might enjoy even more.
It’s not perfect by any stretch, but still, we’ll take it.
Today’s Takeaway: How aware are you of attachment or non-attachment in your daily life? Do you find any of your attachments worrisome or problematic? Do you have a preference for one over the other, attachment versus non-attachment? If so, why do you think that is?