How to Live A Life of Non-Attachment
Practice non-attachment daily to squeeze the marrow out of life.
“Prolong not the past
Invite not the future
Do not alter your innate wakefulness
Fear not appearances
There is nothing more than this.” — Ram Dass
When I was a little girl, I built sand castles with my brother.
We would laugh so hard, an ear-to-ear grin plastered on our face. Nothing stopped us from enjoying the joy of building our creation. Not our mother’s calling to “Come inside and eat your dinner!” Not the heavy rain that destroyed what we built in a few minutes, without mercy.
Come rain or shine, we built one sand castle after another.
On some days, we built our castle from scratch — when angry rain from the heavens destroyed our creation. On some days, we continued building from the day before.
On other days, we forgot about our castle for weeks.
Whatever the case, we loved our sand castles. They were our favourite thing in our young world. A precious thing we loved with non-attachment. A play we cherished more than anything.
We did not resent the rain for destroying what we created. We did not get bitter when a neighbor’s kid smashed our castle with his foot, because he was jealous of us, our love and the love we gave to our sand castle. We did not blame our mother for interrupting our sand building.
We squeezed the marrow out of life.
We had fun.
That was possible because we did not cling to our castle.
We could not have fun if we were busy attaching ourselves to anything that came in the way of our castle.
To live a life of non-attachment practice these things:
Practice coming from a place of love regardless of your circumstances.
Circumstances change ( forever ). And we suffer when we attach ourselves to them.
We have no control on circumstances. They change like the wind. What we need to practice, not to suffer, is to come from a place of love — instead of clinging to our circumstances.
We suffer when we hold circumstances with a tight leash.
Our job. Our relationship. Our business. The economic condition in our country. We must never give these things the power to drag us away from what is precious. Which is love. Loving what we do in the present moment.
This is not to mean you should not do your job or build your relationship or your business.
You should and you must.
But never hold these things with a tight fist. Or, clench them to your chest as if they are promised to you till kingdom comes.
What you hold on to with a death grip has power over you, my dear.
And this deadly power follows you like a shadow. It will keep on controlling you until you unclench your death grip.
You don’t control what your boss will think of you one year from now. You don’t control what your partner will feel one year from now. You don’t control what the economy will be one year from now.
External things are outside of your domain. Stop attaching yourself to them. Instead, practice coming from a place of love. Of what you can do in the present moment.
Identify and remove the stories you tell yourself about the world and others.
I worry my new students are going to be difficult. That I will hate teaching them.
I do not yet know my students. That’s a fact. The rest is just a story.
My co-worker is acting aloof. Is it me? Did I do something to offend him? Is he mad at me?
It’s true my co-worker is aloof. That’s a fact. The rest is just a story.
I text my friend and she doesn’t text back. I spin out. Why is she ignoring me? Does she not care? Does she not want to be my friend anymore? Does she have a new friend? Why is this happening to me?
It’s true my friend has not texted me back. That’s a fact. The rest is just a story.
The stories you tell yourself keep you from living a life of non-attachment. They keep you attached to the past. To every imaginary scenario in your head. To what you wish. To what’s not true.
You miss out on your present moment when your mind keeps on piling stories after stories.
Sweet readers, you need to be aware of things that are fact and things you add. Whatever you add is just a story.
Sometimes the suffering is in the thing, but mostly, it’s in the stories.
Get ego out of the way.
She’s mine. How dare she? Why is she not respecting me? How do I keep her, own her?
To be fully occupied in life in front of you, you have to say goodbye to your ego.
Ego is attachment. To your pride. To all the mastery, glory, and prowess you want to be.
Discard anything coming from your ego. It is in the way of your life with non-attachment.
Be aware of your attachments.
“Who Moved My Cheese?” by author, Dr. Spencer Johnson is one of my favourite books on change.
Johnson in his book has two characters, in the form of rats.
They teach us a lot about attachment. In the book’s short and memorable story, we suffer with the rats when they chase a lost cheese.
The tiny rats lose their delicious cheese. One day, their home has cheese in it. The next day, they do not find even a trace of their food in their house.
Someone or something has stolen their cheese.
And they spend the next days, weeks, months, and years chasing the unknown culprit who took the cheese.
Talk about attachment in full force.
They starve and live a hellish and unhappy life. They refuse to release the tight leash they have on their attachment. They refuse to acknowledge the truth. That they chase a cheese that no longer exists.
You don’t mend what you can’t see, dear one.
Be aware of your attachments. You no longer have a body you admired once? Be aware of it. You have lost a job? Acknowledge this fact to yourself. You no longer love your ex or he has stopped loving you?
See the truth with your heart.
And only then will those things release their tight hold on you.
Do not let fear be your guide.
Let love guide the way.
You’ll miss your whole life if fear holds your red, blood-beating heart. You need to come from a place of love to enjoy your relationships, your job, and your precious present moment.
You either love or fear life.
Love comes from non-attachment. And fear comes from attachment. To the past. To what you’re afraid of. To the future.
Fear lets you turn your back on the preciousness of life with non-attachment. It is like caging yourself in a dark room, cowering from the glazing power of life. Precious life exists outside of your dark room. Where the present moment, with its beauty and the light and the splendour in it lives.
Life passes you by because you cling and attach yourself to fear.
This is what fear does to us:
- It prevents us from living fully in the present moment.
- It distracts us from what is important and that is non-attachment.
When fear guides your life, you’re afraid of “getting attached.” This right here is the crux of the matter. It’s only without this fear that you learn and love and get hurt and grow and get taken out and recover and return to life’s battle again and again.
In the gorgeous words of Sri Chinmoy,
“Non-attachment is the freedom of real love.”
Resentment is poison.
This is not a figure of speech. This feeling demands from your body a fight or flight reaction, releasing stress hormones that affect your immune system and raise your blood pressure.
Resentment steals every light from your life.
When you keep on holding resentment in your suffering heart, you choose to attach yourself to the past. To hatred. To anger. To spite. To darkness. To the transgression that has happened to you.
To be free of the suffering, you need to release resentment from your heart. It’s not worth it, this attachment to hatred. Letting go is how you live a life of non-attachment.
It will set you free.
Stop wanting what you don’t need.
More! More! More!
More is the enemy of joy. Of appreciating what you have. Of squeezing the marrow out of life.
It’s like holding water on your hands. You can hold the water you need on your hands and drink from it. If you want more water on your hands and try to take on more water, you lose the water on your hand.
“The most exquisite paradox … as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you dreamed possible.” — Ram Dass
Anything that has us by its leash controls us. Suffers us, endlessly.
We do not live a life of non-attachment when we attach ourselves to things or circumstances or the past or unwanted feelings or people or the stories we keep on telling ourselves or ego or fear.
Anything we attach ourselves to has all the power in the world.
And we suffer, endlessly, and forever.
Releasing the tight leash we have on what we have attached to is the only way we can squeeze the marrow out of life.