“Non-attachment is not the elimination of desire. It is the spaciousness to allow any quality of mind, any thought or feeling, to arise without closing around it, without eliminating the pure witness of being. It is an active receptivity to life.”
Some time ago, I was speaking to a charming 92-year-old woman who was in a nursing home following a fall and faced with the probability of never returning to the home she had lived in for decades.
When I asked her how she felt about this transition, with quiet strength she responded, “I’m not attached.”
She told me that as a young girl following the death of her mother, she learned that being attached brought her suffering and being open to the comings and goings of life brought a sense of ease.
This understanding enabled her to live life to the fullest—she had many wonderful adventures—as she was no longer afraid of what she could lose. She lived in true acceptance, and her sense of peace was palpable.
What can we learn about this profound message of non-attachment? Simply said, when we make our happiness dependent on people, money, success, possessions, circumstances, or even life itself, we suffer.
Attachments are sticky. Our freedom goes out the window as we spend our energy trying to keep what we want and reject what we don’t want, trying to feel safe, comfortable, and fulfilled.
Then when things don’t go our way, we feel let down and disappointed, concluding that life isn’t fair. We live in fear of what we could lose.
Consider these examples:
- I need attention and approval from others to be happy.
- I need to feel safe, so I can’t explore life outside my comfort zone.
- I’m attached to routines and habits.
- I need to feel peaceful and don’t like feeling agitated and upset.
- I need others to change—or stay the same.
- I’m attached to staying young; I’m afraid of aging and death.
If we stay mired in our attachments, we’re resisting reality. It’s like living in a room filled with furniture—everywhere we turn we bump into something.
And caught in stories about what we should or shouldn’t have, we’re distracted from the free flow of what life has to offer us. We contract into the known and resist expanding into wonder, potential, and spontaneity.
Can you feel into what it’s like to be attached? How do you feel in your body?
Recognizing your attachments, the invitation arises to reflect on how you want to meet whatever appears in the moments of your life.
You may not be able to control what happens, but you can choose how you show up to what comes.
There is nothing wrong with being attached—it’s part of being human along with grieving the loss of those we love. And, if we want peace, if we want to align with the truth of our experience, can we say “yes” to reality as it is?
Can we meet our reactions—the grief and fear—with an open heart capable of holding it all?
When we remove the veil of our attachments, along with our personal ideas about what is and isn’t okay, miraculously here we are…one with life, free, and fully alive.