The Law of Detachment

Allow yourself to let go; from holding back and becoming a great version of yourself.

“To remember non-attachment is to remember what freedom is all about. If we get attached, even to a beautiful state of being, we are caught, and ultimately we will suffer. We work to observe anything that comes our way, experience it while it is here and be able to let go of it.” 

  • Sharon Salzberg

Attachment is born in the womb when we are, quite literally, attached to another being through an umbilical cord, depending on her for nourishment and life. As we grow from babies into children we learn that having attachment to a caregiver provides us with safety and security, therefore increasing our chance of survival. It makes sense that we would carry this notion into our lives as we mature from children into adults, seeking attachment to material possessions, people, belief systems, etc. However, if you look more closely, you will see that attachment does not lead to your happiness or wellbeing. Non-attachment is considered a virtue in many religions around the world as it opposes the feeling greed. To practice detachment, we must see clearly the nature of all things as impermanent, observe our mental experience of desire and open ourselves up to fear less and love more. 

Acknowledge Impermanence

Attachment comes from our misinformed belief that anything in this world is permanent. To ‘attach’ ourselves to anything is to proclaim that it is mine, now and forever. Thinking this way becomes problematic when whatever the object of our attachment is, goes away. When this happens, we may break down and experience true suffering. Impermanence is the basic universal truth that all that we have in this moment is ephemeral and fleeting. You can notice this by watching your breath in meditation. The breath comes in, and goes away, each breath is new and different, and our next breath is not guaranteed. A day begins, and ends. Vacation comes and goes. The experience of anger, sadness, and even joy and delight, all come and go. Nothing stays forever. Acknowledging this ultimate truth of the nature of reality gives us the freedom to loosen our grips on our material possessions, belief systems, and even our relationships in a way that allows us to appreciate it all more deeply. 

Learning to let go is one of the most powerful practices we can ever undertake in this life. In Buddhism, it is said to be the path to true freedom and the release from suffering. Knowing that all things that arise will also fade away empowers us to not cling to experience but rather to welcome each moment and all it contains with receptivity. If we find ourselves attached to a view or a certain way something must work out, it will close our minds to any other possibilities and in the end create dissatisfaction when our ideal is not met. This does not mean we shouldn’t have goals, dreams or desires. Rather it is a request to remain open to having the result look different than we intended. How many times in your life have you had the experience of something in the moment feeling negative, but in the end it produced unanticipated positive results? I recently read a story of a friend who was let go of her job only to find her dream job with better salary, and a working environment more aligned with her heart. If she was attached to the belief that she was doomed and nothing would work out, she likely would not have been open to that new job. 

Practicing non-attachment with material possessions acknowledges the truth that they are not the source of our sustained happiness and wellbeing. If we attach our happiness with something physical, we will end up disappointed when that thing goes out of style, breaks, or is lost along the way. Tapping into a wellspring of happiness starts with this acknowledgment of impermanence. Offering non-attachment in relationships allows our partner to feel free. When we are not possessive of them, our love can grow even deeper because they feel free. Arguments in relationships benefit from the practice of seeing impermanence because they allow us to loosen our grip on righteousness, seeing the wider perspective of the situation at hand. 

Soften the Wanting Mind

Desire presents itself in our mind many times throughout our day both subconsciously and consciously. It can manifest as wanting a glass of tea, or craving the latest iPhone. Observing the mind throughout your day will help you become more skilled at detecting desire when it arises. If you sit long enough, you will also notice that desire loosen its grasp and fade into the background. This is simply the nature of the mind, impermanent. The new iPhone 11 may be hot right now, but they will come out with a new one any day that makes yours redundant. Notice in you the desire to have the best thing out there, to be coolest, to have a representation of wealth or to fit in. Mindful observation is the first step to regaining control over the wanting mind. Without this mindfulness, our habitual desires will run the show which can lead to unskillful actions such as overeating, purchasing unnecessary items, or feeling insignificant. One way to tame the wanting mind is by reorienting it to what you already have, and practicing gratitude. This simple act can nourish our minds and hearts more than the object we desire. 

Fear Less, Love More

Attachment is often born out of fear. Fear of not being enough, not having enough, or of losing something or someone. Freedom comes from the acknowledgment of impermanence, which gives us the space to love more deeply. If our mind is in a state of fear, we cannot fully love. 

Try a practice of affirmation each day that re-wires the fears you have into love. Each morning, say to yourself, “I have enough, and I am enough.” Simply acknowledging this shifts our focus from lack to abundance, which opens us to the ability to feel love more fully, and loosens the grip of fear. When we let go, it is a radical act of allowing life to be exactly as it is, leading to a more easeful heart and more wise, unbiased actions in the world. 

Photo: Aditya Saxena

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    1 Comment

    1. Avery Elizabeth

      EXCELLENT ARTICLE! We don’t realize how being attached closes us down to anything new, different or unexpected. Stay open and really live each day.

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