Non-Attachment is Healthy

After reading Lodo Rinzler’s book “Love Hurts-Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken” it is a reminder that a part of life is pain and it’s inevitable. As the protector of my soul, it’s up to me on how I work through the pain and get to the other side. We all know the self sabotaging reactions that hurt so good and I’ll admit, I wallow in that destructive behavior for some time, then I pull my boot straps up, and remind myself I’m a bad ass bitch and keep going.

I was recently introduced to the Buddhist concept of “non-attachment”. If we fully understand nothing lasts forever, why are the “non-attachment” principles not more widely practiced? It shields us from the pain that comes from loss, yet, it encourages us to seize the current moment and be mindful in our everyday lives. I have tried to incorporate this in my most recent relationship. It certainly isn’t easy after believing in relying on people, expecting certain outcomes, and holding those closest to you accountable when certain needs aren’t met. Harry Browne wrote a letter to his daughter on Christmas of 1966, he stated “no one owes you anything”. We’ve all heard this before, but if we applied it to our own lives, we would prevent ourselves from being hurt by others actions and our expectations would be lower. Furthermore, we would appreciate certain moments far more because they aren’t a guarantee.

Fast forward 52 years, I have taken these wise words Harry Browne once wrote his daughter, and applied it to how I operate along with the buddhist teachings of non-attachment. I felt an internal shift when my father passed away that closely relates to the non-attachment theory. He was the one person that exhibited superman like qualities and I looked up to him in complete adoration. I remember thinking if the one man that was never supposed to hurt me caused me pain in his death, how can I expect anyone else that crosses my path to not do the same, even inadvertently? That unfortunately included my spouse whom I had just newly wed.

7 years later, I look back and see that the notion behind that thought stemmed from grief, but it shaped me in a way that I don’t think I will ever fully let go of, mainly because I believe it holds some truth. I built this rigid exterior to help me protect myself from ever having to experience that desolate, wretched, and heartbroken feeling that overcame me the day that I lost my dad. In addition, I developed this machismo-like attitude to only look out for numero uno. This perspective comes off selfish and brash, but it is reinforced daily when I see disappointments of humankind in our world.

Life is truly too short, so I’m okay with meeting my maker knowing I lived this life being self-seeking, trying to get the one shot I have right. Once I started living for myself, I felt stronger. I was more malleable. I started focusing on what I could control, rather than what I could not.

So, back to non-attachment in your personal relationships & physical things, it shouldn’t be viewed negatively. This allows you to let go of expectations. You do not own other people, not even those you have birthed. As poet & writer Kahil Gibran said, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you”. It isn’t anyone's responsibility to make sure they live up to the ideas you have created . You can’t experience disappointment if you didn’t expect anything in the first place. You will have a healthier connection to your emotions; you can appreciate them, but they will no longer control you.

When I find myself frequently having difficulty getting out of my head, becoming grounded, or giving things more attention than they deserve, I resort back to what I read from Pema Chondron’s book, “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change.” I allow myself to endure the full 90 seconds of automated response to certain emotions, then release, getting closer to the fundamental ambiguity of being human. If they last longer, that is my doing. I allowed my mind to create a storyline grasping onto anxiety, anger, and suffering. Understanding and accepting change will bring us closer to happiness and a life well-lived.

The concept of non-attachment also allows you to cherish those around you even more. I once heard someone propose a question in regards to meeting a wonderful group of people while traveling abroad that relates to non-attachment. You knew you would never see or speak to these people again; would you allow that to prevent you from making a connection? No. You would make the best of the moment, because that is all you have.

I will leave you here, with the concept that people come and go. Sometimes for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Accept the guidance, experiences, growth, and lessons learned. “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”- Buddha.