Participants in the mindfulness morning I host once a month asked me if I could talk about attachment during our next morning together. As I began to generate an outline for our discussion, I started, as I usually like to, with an open-ended question.
What are we attached to?
I began to consider the range of responses that may arise. I can’t predict what will come up, but it helps me to think out the question myself. It dawned on me that the range of answers we may discuss is vast – our attachment to our opinions, our attachment to our things, our attachments to people in our lives, our attachments to expectations of how things will go and what we want from others, our attachments to our judgements and thoughts.
Perhaps the next question for contemplation is, “What are we not attached to?” My mind slowed down with this one. Aside from things I am not aware of, which I suppose shouldn’t count – it’s not easy to think of what I am not attached to. So far, I have only come up with – what is happening in someone else’s life that doesn’t affect me. I guess that means I am not attached to what I am detached from.
This may seem to make sense at first. When we are detached, then we are not attached. However, there is an irony here. It is precisely because we are detached that we get attached. In other words, it is because we do not think of ourselves as part of a larger whole – because we separate ourselves, our families and our realms of consciousness from others, that we are attached to what we feel is ours. If we could flip this around and realize that we are all deeply connected to one another (through our shared human experience, through sharing this earth and the atmosphere and so much more) then perhaps we could more readily feel less attached to what we feel is ours.
Let me think of an example – I am attached to my own goals. I would like to write a book, and I am attached to the outcome of writing a book. However, I may question whether I am capable of achieving my goal or not. I may hear make-believe voices in my head of criticism from others around me. My attachment to my goal and my expectations of myself may bring up feelings of low self-worth. In this mode, I am detaching myself as an individual who wants to write a book. Instead, if I consider my interconnectedness to others and I see the book I want to write, not as mine, but as something that comes out of the shared experience I have with others, as a natural outcome from all the thoughts that others have shared with me and that flow through me to share further, then I feel both less attached to my goals as mine alone and less detached from the world around me. I may be able to channel my connectedness to my higher purpose.
How does this translate to living our daily lives? As always, we can bring a quality of mindfulness to this question of attachment. We can notice when we are feeling attached, we can contemplate whether we can feel less attached by feeling less detached from our shared human experience. Attachment is not a bad thing – let’s not get attached to our opinion on this – the feeling of attachment brings beautiful qualities to our lives – for example in our love for our children, in our contributions to our communities. As with everything, we can pause and ask ourselves, is this level of attachment serving me well? Could I still love and at the same time let go of my attachment a little, allowing myself to love more freely? Would I love and live better without so many expectations, with a little less attachment and little more connection?
I would love to hear what you think, please do share your thoughts below.