How to Be Non-Attached

I spent the weekend at Redwood State and National Parks with a dear friend who is moving in 10 days so this subject matter is on my mind. Here’s a repost from August about another friend who was moving at that time. 

I’m having a tough time with the impermanence of things. The good things in my life I want to lock in little glass jars and preserve them for all eternity. What’s funny is I have a similar reaction to the bad things. Not that I want to preserve them for all eternity, but rather it feels like they’ll be with me for all eternity. There is not a sense that this too shall pass.

I’m experiencing both of those sensations at the moment – wanting to preserve stuff and feeling like other stuff is interminable. A dear friend of mine is moving across the country in about 10 days and I’m really sad about it. I want him to stay here, I want things to keep going like they have been, and at the same time my sadness feels like a constant companion.

Buddhists would say my pain comes from attachment. I agree, I am very attached, but I don’t know how not to be. The word people use most often to describe me is “intense.” I love deeply and commit fully. There is no halfway for me. I’m one of those extreme personalities, although I’m working on learning moderation and the middle ground. How am I supposed to learn non-attachment? Well, I’m not.

My spiritual teacher says, “[N]on-attachment does not mean to leave all pleasures and remain in a state of indifference to the world. It does not mean to leave everything and go to the seclusion of a mountain cave. Those who are truly non-attached do not deny the world (or worldly life); they embrace it, for they feel the touch of the eternal hidden within all the changing forms of their lives. They are with everything.”

That to me means non-attachment is seeing things in their true form: as an expression of the divine, which is eternal. Non-attachment means enjoying things while they’re around and remembering they are not the source of my enjoyment. I may love a person but love doesn’t die when they leave. Non-attachment means I love God in the form of this person, but ultimately I love God. Again, it comes back to ascribing God-hood to everything.

I’m not saying I’m no longer sad about my friend moving, because I am, but I do feel a little better because I’m reminded of what’s constant, of what’s eternal. I’m also reminded of my source for everything. My higher power will always bring me who and what I need. In fact, a few weeks ago I rode the bus home from a meeting when normally I hitch a ride, and I ran into someone I knew, who I just met a few days before. It felt like a message from my higher power saying, “Your friend may be leaving, but that doesn’t mean you won’t make new friends and that your community will disintegrate. I am your source for everything; remember this all comes from me.”

I dream of a world where we remember for better or for worse, everything is impermanent. A world where we take comfort in knowing what’s eternal. A world where we enjoy what’s in front of us but also practice non-attachment because we catch a glimpse of the true form underneath.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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