sounds a bit
intimidating, doesn't it...?
and 'letting go,'
go hand in
Unfortunately, most people tend to associate this spiritual phrase
with being emotionally cold and unfeeling...
But true non-attachment
is quite the opposite:
it allows us to live
in this world fully, without being attached to people, things or
thoughts that create suffering...
As the Dalai Lama
was once quoted to have said:
Attachment is the
origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of
But we don't have to sell
everything we own and become monks or nuns to practice
non-attachment; we simply need to understand the vital
importance of letting go.
Non-attachment or release from desire has been spoken about in many
religions such as,
the Bahá'í Faith,
...but this concept is
most commonly linked to Buddhism.
Here are a few perspectives from major spiritual traditions on
The root of
suffering is attachment
When we come to non-attachment, then we can understand the
marvelous mystery of the universe: how it is intense
activity and at the same time intense peace, how it is work
every moment and rest every moment.
Vivekananda (Hindu Tradition)
Consider the trees which allow the birds to perch and fly
away without either inviting them to stay or desiring them
never to depart. If your heart can be like this, you will be
near to the Way.
Act without expectation
He who is attached to things will suffer much.
Aparigraha (or Non-attachment)
the three pillars of Jainism)
Attach not thyself to anything unless in it thou seest the
reality of God.
Abdu'l-Baha (Bahá'í Faith)
Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that
nothing should own you.
Abi Talib (Islam)
There are simply too many
quotes out there on non-attachment to include here, but I hope these
perspectives give you an idea of how important non-attachment is not
only religiously/spiritually, but on a global level.
Non-attachment is not about being a cold or emotionally
dead brick wall, instead,
it's about learning
how to let go of the thoughts and emotions that create
Once we can stop being so
attached to our thoughts, we experience tremendous
relief, inner peace, and a pervading sense of joyful well-being.
how do we let go of
our thoughts and emotions?
We must learn to observe
and disentangle ourselves from our thoughts through practices such
When we can simply allow
life to unfold naturally without being attached to,
feelings or opinions,
...then we experience
Picture this process of
detachment like being an ice cube that slowly melts down into a
puddle of flowing water. Water, like the practice of non-attachment,
flows with life effortlessly and peacefully, whereas ice cubes do
The goal of
non-attachment, therefore, is to become like water...
Essentially, non-attachment is about letting go of everything, both
physical and non-physical - or what spiritual teachers such as
Eckhart Tolle refer to as,
"dying before you
At first, this sounds
scary, but dying before you die really only means,
letting go of
everything that is preventing you from finding what is true,
eternal, unchanging, and forever present...
In the words of Tolle,
"Death is a stripping
away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before
you die - and find that
there is no death."
So non-attachment, at the
deepest level, is about returning back to your True Nature or Higher
Self by loosening the grip of the mind on internal and external
Benefits of Non-Attachment
When we stop clinging to internal and external phenomena, our whole
relationship with life is transformed.
Here is what may (or may
not) happen when you learn how to practice acceptance and surrender:
You will stop
being controlled by your emotions, instead, you'll become
interested in them
You won't be
attached to the outcome, meaning that you'll be free from
the dread, anxiety, and inner tension that comes with
clinging to expectations
You'll be more
curious, open, and spontaneous because you have no
predetermined desire or craving
You'll be more
peaceful and less neurotic, meaning that your relationships
and friendships will drastically improve
consistently relaxed and serene because you're not
identifying with your thoughts and feelings (and instead
you're witnessing them as a "passive observer")
You'll be more
resilient in the face of loss and death because you're not
attached to people and realize that all things are ephemeral
You'll feel a
sense of expansive freedom because you're no longer a slave
to the mind
You'll feel a
sense of wholeness because you don't need or want anything
in particular, you're happy just as you are in the present
You'll feel more
love for yourself and others because you're not attaching to
beliefs and expectations about who you/others "should" be or
what "shouldn't" happen - you'll give yourself and other
people freedom to be themselves without judgment
synchronicity as life
unfolds effortlessly and naturally
You'll no longer
be addicted to "getting" things or filling an empty hole in
yourself because you're content and don't attach to the
belief that someone or something will "complete" you
You'll feel more
grounded and connected to
life because you're not lost in thought-based attachments -
you'll actually participate in life more fully
Your mind will
become clear and you'll be able to perceive the truth more
gratitude, love, compassion, and happiness permeate your
life as you have let go of the need to chase happiness
(which creates unhappiness)
Put non-resistance and
non-judgment together with non-attachment, and you have a recipe for
complete inner peace.
When we stop
resisting life and judging things to be "good" or "bad," we
naturally let go of a lot of anger, hatred, fear, and sadness.
The Mistake of
Attaching to Non-Attachment
After hearing about non-attachment the tendency of the mind is to
instantly fire up and start masterminding ways of "achieving"
But be careful! Even the
desire to want no desire is still a desire...!
The whole point of non-attachment is to begin paying attention to
What occupies your
mind all day?
What drives you?
In what ways are you
seeking happiness from the external world rather than the
Non-attachment is a
concept that helps us to explore what is happening within us...
but at the same time, it can easily become yet another attachment.
So pay attention.
Be wary of allowing
non-attachment to become yet another "Trophy" you're trying to
add to your spiritual cabinet because it doesn't work that way.
It is impossible to
practice true non-attachment when we're attached to the desire to be
How do we prevent this (largely overlooked) attachment from
happening? We'll explore that soon.
But first, let's examine
3 Kinds of
In order for us to transform and evolve, it's essential to discover
what our strongest attachments are in this world. In my own journey
so far, I've discovered three main types of attachment.
Which can you relate to
It's no wonder that many of the sages and spiritual masters of
the world were sojourners for most of their lives, having little
food or money, and certainly no land or property to claim as
Their behavior points
to a higher truth:
possessions are meaningless and transient.
The more you have
physically, the more you have to lose, and thus, the more
worried you become about losing it all.
When our happiness and security lies in the external world of
objects and things, we are in constant peril.
At any moment our
houses could burn down, our treasures could be stolen, our
bank accounts could be hacked, our businesses could go bust.
Attachment to the
material world is like building a fortress on shifting sands:
your house is
bound to crumble and fall one time or another...
If you struggle with
material attachment you:
prestige of having a stylish house, designer car, fancy
clothing, and other items that indicate how wealthy and
successful you are.
self-esteem and happiness from material possession,
e.g., you love having the latest iPhone and without it,
you'd feel outdated (and like a bit of a loser)
living in a better house, having a better kitchen, a
more expensive surround sound system, a larger pool,
renovating the garden, and so forth - you gain a lot of
pleasure from these daydreams
sprees make you excited; you love bringing back bags of
clothing, accessories, shoes, and other household items
the thought of losing all of your possessions in a
though you couldn't do without certain items or luxuries
though insuring your possessions is essential for your
well-being - you want some kind of monetary
reimbursement if you lose something (…to buy it all back
surrounding yourself with beautiful furniture, linen,
paintings, etc. They're all absolutely necessary to
enhance the quality of life and your well-being
extremely upset or annoyed when something you want
discontinues or sells out
Unlike personal attachment, being non-attached to a
person/people means being able to coexist with them without
using them as a means towards an end.
In other words,
personal non-attachment is not needing anyone for acceptance or
Unfortunately, many of us unwittingly fall into the trap of
using other people to create our happiness. This is also known
as conditional love, as a person loses their value to us once
they cease to be a source of comfort in our lives.
The person who has developed non-attachment, on the other hand,
gains their love, acceptance, and validation from themselves,
rather than from others, this is why there are different styles
Thus, they are able
to love unconditionally regardless of what role the person plays
in their lives.
If you struggle with personal attachment you:
distance or completely cut off someone from your life
once they become problematic or cease to be a source of
personal validation for you
Feel lost and
alone without the unceasing support of a loved one
for years after a person stops loving you
and find it hard to forgive people who have hurt you
Are needy and
clingy - you struggle to provide your loved ones with
the freedom they need to thrive (and you need their
constant attention to be mentally sound)
manipulative; you can be deliberately or unconsciously
self-destructive in order to gain attention, love, and
Perhaps the most insidious of all, thought attachment can
destroy physical, emotional, psychological, and interpersonal
well-being in the blink of an eye.
When we attach ourselves to a belief, expectation, preconceived
notion, or idea - especially if these are negative or harmful -
we in a sense walk around with a loaded gun.
Eventually, we end up
shooting ourselves, and others, with our thought attachments:
it's practically inevitable.
When we attach ourselves to a thought, we do so because they
bring us either comfort, ego justification, or a sense of order
For instance, many of
us possess thought attachments like:
"I'm always like
this. I can never change"
"Those people are
all a bunch of idiots/thugs/thief's/liars, etc."
"I have found the
truth! I'm right and they're all wrong"
"My life should
be like this _________"
"It will always
be this way. It will never change."
Those who are
strongly attached to their thoughts tend to use extremist
language, canceling out all other perspectives or possibilities
and creating psychological and emotional tension, harm, and
usually includes words and phrases like,
"right/wrong," "good/evil," "always," "never," "forever,"
"they are all," "you are all," "I am always," "they are
always," "you are never," "they are never," and so forth...
non-attachment, on the other hand, observes a thought, but does
not identify with it, and therefore does not attach to the
This experience is
usually developed by quieting the mind, such as in the practice
of meditation, where one learns the true nature of thought: that
all thought arises spontaneously and we do not control our
Because we do not
control our thoughts, we are not our thoughts, we are the space
behind them (also known as Consciousness).
Therefore, why should
we take them so seriously?
Thought non-attachment allows us to be liberated from the narrow
cycles of the mind that we become trapped in, to a more
expansive and open-minded perception of the world.
If you struggle with thought attachment you:
Tend to try
and "figure everything out" all the time
certain cultures or groups of people are all alike
hard and judgmental towards yourself, and thus are hard
and judgmental towards others
people and situations are either entirely good, entirely
bad, entirely right, or entirely wrong
Tend to see
the world in black and white, e.g., something or someone
is always like this, or never does that
lost in your head: your thoughts seem to possess you
controlled by your thoughts: they can easily make you
extremely sad, bitter, angry, jealous, etc.
Don't feel dismayed
if you can relate to one (or all) forms of attachment.
We are all imperfect,
we are all human, and that's perfectly okay.
Simply being aware of
these forms of attachment, however, will help give us that extra
centimeter of space between our True Nature and our false
How to Stop
Being Attached to Thoughts, Feelings, People, and Circumstances
Non-attachment is usually the byproduct of spiritual practices such,
Here are some useful ways
to begin letting go of habits, desires, and thought-patterns that no
longer serve you:
1. Stop looking
for happiness in external things
When we chase happiness by believing that someone or something
outside of ourselves can make us happy, we suffer.
In fact, the pursuit
of happiness is the greatest form of attachment there is in
society. Instead, try to direct your attention inwards.
At first, seeking
happiness from within (involution) can be extremely difficult as
we've been conditioned to find "happiness" in material things,
accomplishments, titles, and people. But with practice, you will
start to find the peaceful center within you known as your soul.
aside time to be quiet and still with yourself can help you tune
into this inner space.
2. Let go
of the "shoulds" and "musts"
How do you
Are the words
"should" and "must" a big part of your vocabulary?
are mental attachments) are always prefaced with one of these
two words, for example,
"He should be
nicer," "I must achieve this or I will be a failure," "They
should stop doing that immediately."
Pay attention to the
use of these two words and how they reflect in your behavior.
Are you believing
that something "should" happen or someone "must" be a certain
way? Let it go. You cannot change people.
Allow life to flow
without imposing useless expectations onto it.
Allowing is about permitting life to be just as it is. Allow
your thoughts. Allow your emotions. Allow things to not go the
way you expected.
In the words of
"The Art of
Allowing is the art of finding my alignment, and therefore,
living in joy no matter what's happening around me."
By allowing life to
happen, you stop resisting and suffering ceases.
4. Make friends
We control, obsessively plan, and try to predict things out of
pure fear. But the problem is that the more we resist
uncertainty, the more paranoid, anxious, and tense we become.
When we learn to
embrace uncertainty and to allow life to unfold as it wants, we
don't experience fear anymore - instead, we feel calm, curious,
and open to all possibilities.
This openness allows
us to adopt a playful attitude towards life because we're no
longer limited by fearing the unknown. Sometimes a simple shift
in mindset can help you befriend uncertainty instead of loathing
For example, instead
of dreading "what will come around the corner" start perceiving
the unknown as a big surprise waiting to happen.
5. Learn to
observe your thoughts and feelings
The easiest way to observe your thoughts and feelings is through
a regular daily meditation practice.
I recommend trying
Vipassana meditation as it
helps you to stay grounded while discovering with first-hand
experience that you are not your thoughts:
your thoughts are
simply fluctuations of energy that rise and fall like waves
in the ocean.
The more you
incorporate thought-awareness into your life, the more readily
you'll see how irrelevant many thoughts are:
they only mean
something when you assign them meaning.
When you don't give
thoughts importance, they cease to cause you pain.
6. See how
transient all things are
Look around you and try to find something that will last
Who or what will
The reality is that
all things will sooner or later die. By reminding yourself of
this fact, you will start living life as fully and completely as
Seeing the transience
of life is deeply saddening but also gives us the opportunity to
experience true joy. If everything lasted forever, what a boring
thing life would be! Death helps us to appreciate life.
So appreciate it
while you have it. Furthermore, use this recognition to fuel
your pursuit to find that which doesn't change, or that which is
Start looking within
and you will be surprised... or more than surprised,