- A Zen Master Explains the True Meaning of Non-Attachment and Why Most People Get it Wrong
- So what is non-attachment or detachment really?
- How do they handle those emotions?
- Non-Attachment: The Art (& Struggle) of Letting Go
- How to Let Go and Find Joy in Non-attachment
- How to live with the spirit of non-attachment
- What happens when you tune out the noise
- Why Non-Attachment is one of the Keys to a Happy Relationship & Life
- The Definition and Principle of Non-Attachment
- How Non-Attachment Empowers Love Relationships
- How Non-Attachment Moves You Toward Unconditional Love
- Attachment and The Art of Letting Go
- The Essence of Attachment
- The Reality of Life Unfolding
- Thich Nhat Hanh: The Art of Letting Go
- Maitri (Not the Love You Know)
- Karuna (Compassion)
- Gratitude and Joy
- Upeksha (Equanimity)
- The Art of Letting Go is Artless
- 7 Steps to Overcoming Attachment and Letting Go with Meditation
- 1. Meditate on attachment itself
- 2. Meditate on the effect attachment has on you
- 3. Meditate on the impermanence of all things
- 4. Meditate on your death
- 5. Meditate on the interbeing of all things
- 6. Meditate on past attachments and whether they led to long-term peace and happiness or not
- 7. Meditate on your attachment to attachment (Meditate on the ego)
- Get the 7 Steps to Overcoming Attachment and Letting Go with Meditation PDF Workbook
A Zen Master Explains the True Meaning of Non-Attachment and Why Most People Get it Wrong
A lot of people tend to misunderstand the non-attachment concept inspired by Buddhism.
While some people think it’s negative, non-attachment actually provides several benefits to everyone.
For one, it brings a deeper form of love, freedom, compassion, and care, beyond what is readily imagined.
To clear up some misinterpretations about non-attachment, we’ve summarized an article written by spiritual guru Osho on the subject. We’ve also shared a video at the bottom of this article where Alan Watts breaks down non-attachment in 3 minutes.
So what is non-attachment or detachment really?
Firstly, Osho says that the non-attachment principle does not mean that you have to be as cold as stone. Feelings and emotions will still exist even if you decide to free yourself from them. The only difference is how you respond and relate to them.
Even those who are famous for being the best spiritual teachers are capable of playing, laughing, smiling and crying. There are times, though, when they also experience moments of frustration and impatience. It’s because just us, they are also human beings, so they will never be exempted from those negative feelings.
How do they handle those emotions?
People who have mastered negative emotions avoid getting entangled in them. Instead, they acknowledge, accept and even embrace them.
They don’t stifle their emotions but let them arise naturally and dissolve on their own.
They understand that change is the only constant in the universe, and realize that no matter how uncomfortable a negative feeling is, it will eventually pass.
While it takes time and effort to practice this concept, all of us are capable of practicing acceptance.
Feel you're stuck in a rut? Tired of not finding deep and meaningful relationships in life? Learn a powerful framework for aligning your spirituality, work, family and love around your true nature from a modern day shaman. Learn more here.
Mitch Albom explains why accepting your emotions allows you to detach:
“Take any emotion—love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions—if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them—you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief.
You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. “But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, ‘All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion.
Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment’.”
Benefits of Non-attachment
Once you’re able to embrace acceptance and detach from your emotions, you’ll experience some wonderful benefits. They are:
- Your life will no longer be ruled by expectations – This results to less frustrations and disappointments and more satisfaction.
- You will enjoy more space even with all your existing emotions
- You can better relate to the world – You will start seeing it as what it actually is, instead of viewing it your own concepts and standards. That said, you have higher chances of appreciating those around you, allowing you to embrace long-lasting and genuine happiness.
- You will have better mental clarity – This allows you to see things what is true as you won’t attach yourself to limiting mental concepts.
- You will have less worries – Things and scenarios around you will have less impact on you, no matter how negative they are.
- You become more compassionate – Problems affecting the world will no longer stir too much anger on you. In fact, it will cultivate compassion.
- You will be genuinely happy – If you practice detachment, you will be satisfied with what you have. You get the chance to enjoy what is present, instead of running after happiness desperately.
- You let your life unfold and flow naturally – There is no need for you to control all the things around you.
- You continue to love – Loving will become a natural part of you – In fact, you will notice your heart becoming more and more compassionate as you seek the actual sufferings of the world.
- Helping will become a natural part of your system – You will most ly be a Good Samaritan as your detachment will naturally compel you to extend your help to those who need it the most. The good news is that you won’t be too attached to the results of your good deeds.
- You will feel free – This feeling of space and freedom is actually genuine. This makes it easier for you to be content with everything that’s happening to you right now.
Non-attachment makes you embrace freedom because it gives you the chance to have full control over your emotions and your mind, instead of the other way around. This form of freedom makes it possible for you to enjoy all your experiences without any form of disappointments and frustrations.
Here is a brilliant video from Alan Watts which breaks down the art of non-attachment in 3 minutes. Check it out:
Looking to reduce stress and live a calmer life? Check out Hack Spirit's new eBook on the Art of Mindfulness. They explain how to use mindfulness to overcome an overactive mind, be more focused and reduce suffering, fear and anxiety. Check it out here: https://t.co/SyyoaFhBuW pic..com/sF6tL9Mp27
— Lachlan Brown (@Lachybe) March 14, 2018
Non-Attachment: The Art (& Struggle) of Letting Go
At some point the season changes and nothing but this shedding feels right. This necessary shedding, making room for fresh new layers to explore. One layer deeper into the essence of our being. One stage further along the cycle of life.
For the trees we live among, we are constantly cycling through life; shedding, healing, making room for new growth.
And while this all sounds beautiful on paper, this shedding, this time of letting go of old attachments—really this whole darn concept of non-attachment—is freaking hard.
Sure, it sounds great as we read of the merits of simply adjusting our expectations and allowing everything to freely flow in and our lives. But really, the application, this practice of allowing all to flow, without attachment, can be downright messy.
Why? We live in a world where the pressure to have it all and be it all is powerful.
So, when we acquire these check box items such as love, career, house, car, money, or whatever else society tells us we need to be happy, a part of us feels good.
It feels a little bit more okay, a bit more complete. But this very feeling, this chemical boost we receive through various mediums, often leads to attachment.
Attachment to this high, attachment to these chemicals flowing through our bodies—attachment to these things—leaves us wanting more.
Often these attachments become things we fear to lose, things we cling to, things we frantically rush to replace when lost, failing to take the time to heal. Leaving us on the endless chase, the non-stop search, resulting in further suffering.
But what I’ve learned over the past few years, as the cycles of life slapped me in the face, forcing me to let go of much I was attached to, is that often, our fear of loss—that resistance to whatever it is we are worrying about happening—the anticipation of it all, is usually worse in our minds.
When really, this letting go, this pain, and all of the struggles and emotions we encounter as we cycle though life are so natural. Experiences sent to build strength, add character, create depth. Moments helping us feel all that we were designed to feel—the moments necessary for our evolution.
And although the practice of non-attachment remains a challenge, the more I practice letting go and opening up to all of the feels that go along with doing so, the more I’m learning to find comfort in those moments of discomfort, remembering the lightness that follows when we truly allow this energy to flow.
The more I practice sitting with all that I feel, the more I learn to trust that all eventually passes, remembering to let go simply frees space for more goodness to come.
And as tempting as it is to rush to replace whatever it is that falls away, to fill this newly created space, I continue to practice reminding myself of the necessity of allowing this newly created space to simply be.
For just the soil we plant upon, it’s necessary to allow time for new space to heal before planting new seeds.
And today, I can truly feel just how much my heart has grown from all of these practices and from learning to welcome all that is.
I now understand how all that I’m giving myself permission to feel and express is allowing me to experience life on a whole new level, allowing me to feel a deeper level of love and appreciation for everything in this life. Love and appreciation for myself, for the land, for the people I choose to surround myself with, for all that I have in each fleeting moment.
And while there are times I still get impatient, want to jump ahead, avoid the messy stuff, fill the void, and cling to stuff alignment with my path, most days I remember how each experience, person, and moment I’m able to connect with, are temporary blessings, here to teach me all I need to know.
Most days I remember just how freaking lucky I am to be able to tune into this—to truly understand the beauty in each season of life.
So, in the light of a beautiful and auspicious Harvest Moon, I set the intention to once again let go of all that no longer aligns with my deepest desires. Today, I commit to saying “no, thank you” to what no longer feels right.
To take the time to simply be, allowing space for new energy and experiences to grow. Today, I vow to remain patient and compassionate as I continue to practice moving through the seasons of life with an open heart and open mind.
Today, I smile, deeply trusting in each step of this roller-coaster of a journey.
How to Let Go and Find Joy in Non-attachment
Letting go– it’s an overused term with a powerful and far-reaching meaning.
I know, everyone tells you to “just let it go” so much so that it’s started to just piss you off. I get it and I hate when anyone tells me to do the same.
The problem is it never comes with any sort of sensible advice as to how we’re actually supposed to let something go. Well, I plan to change that with some practical advice (the kind you’ll actually use).
In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.
– Deepak Chopra
What does it mean to let go?
It’s a bit of a broad term, but letting go generally refers to stepping away from the things that cause us pain.
And non-attachment refers to the state of being which accompanies this, living in a way that we seek to not grasp onto things any longer because the act of grasping on itself causes pain.
This is an important point that needs to be kept in mind throughout all this: it’s less what you’re grasping onto that causes you pain and more the fact that you keep holding onto things in general.
The problem is, we develop the idea early on that we need something specific to be happy.
Examples of this kind of attachment include:
- An intimate relationship where two people become obsessed with an image of one another as opposed to loving the actual person themselves.
- The idea that physical possessions are necessary to find happiness.
- Desiring status such as a promotion, position, or fame to find our self-worth.
One thing you might notice is that each of the attachments above at first appears physical, but is really mental.
- It’s not the relationship, it’s the obsession with a “perfect” partner
- It’s not the physical objects, it’s the ideathat they’ll bring us lasting happiness
- And it’s not the fame, position, or promotion, it’s the idea that status changes who we areand makes us worthy
It’s important at this point to mention that you can be in a relationship and appreciate your partner for who they are, enjoy objects without needing them to be happy, and seek new promotions or positions without depending on them for your self-worth. And that’s the point we want to get to: that’s living with the spirit of non-attachment.
How to live with the spirit of non-attachment
With the understanding that letting go and living with a spirit of non-attachment is about letting go of ideas and concepts, you’re now halfway there.
The next step and the part that will really begin to get you to the point where letting go and living with non-attachment is possible is to find a way to appreciate the simple fact of being alive.
The reality is, we attach because we want to be happy. It’s really as simple as that. Whether it’s to find peace from a type of pain we experience or confidence when we feel unworthy, it’s all different shades of the same thing.
Because of this, you need to learn how to tap into the joy of simply being alive. This allows you to find a sense of meaning and purpose in daily life that allows you to stop depending on the various attachments that once chained you down.
How is this done? Typically, with some form of meditative or contemplative practice that heightens awareness ( mindfulness). By heightening awareness, something interesting happens: we begin to tune out the noise.
What happens when you tune out the noise
Our mind is naturally crazy and loopy and altogether chaotic, cycling through the same thoughts, feelings, and internal dialogue all at once. This means we tend to go about daily life being pushed and pulled by our unconscious mind and unable to tap into anything of a quieter frequency.
And no, I don’t mean that in a new-agey kind of way. I simply mean that when you’ve got a bunch of noise in your head (thoughts, feelings, etc.), it’s hard to notice other sensations and sensory experiences that are going on at the same time, especially if they’re not jumping out at you our thoughts and emotions tend to be.
What happens is we lose touch (or never have it in the first place) with the basic joy of simply being alive. I know, if you haven’t felt it before, that might sound a bit vague. However, with practice, as you begin to heighten your awareness and quiet the mind through some meditative practice you start to just feel…happier.
Often, you can’t even tell why you’re happier. This is more often than anything why meditation makes us happier.
There’s all this beauty around us:
- The smell of a flower
- The sound of the trees swaying in the wind
- The smile of a child
- Or the little quirks of our partner
All of these things can bring us great happiness if we could only quiet the mind enough to notice them. Of course, keeping the mind quiet at that point becomes its own challenge. You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you? At least at that point you know the path to get there and are often much happier and more at peace as a result.
So, take some time each day to sit quietly with yourself. You don’t have to do anything crazy, just sit and follow the sensation of your breath on the tip of your nostrils or in your belly or chest and notice what thoughts, feeling, and sensations arise.
Getting distracted? No big deal, just go back to your breath. Repeat for a few minutes and you’re done.
Over time, you’ll be surprised with how this simple practice begins to change your outlook on life, giving you a fundamental source of joy that allows you to begin to let go of your attachments and simply find joy in these things for what they are without depending on them for your peace or happiness.
Why Non-Attachment is one of the Keys to a Happy Relationship & Life
Isn’t non-attachment something very similar to indifference? Actually, not at all.
Non-attachment is a highly beneficial state of mind in all fields of life, and in our relationship with people, with possessions, and even with our own physical body.
The Definition and Principle of Non-Attachment
Non-attachment is not Indifference
It’s important to clarify this common misunderstanding. Indifference means a lack of interest and sympathy toward a person or object.
Non-attachment, on the other hand, refers to the state of mind of being objective and not clinging, and it springs from a deep consideration of the conditions of human existence.
Imagine that you go on an organized trip with a group of people that you don’t know. The participants are coming from all over the world and you are not going to see them again after the holiday is over.
In the group, there is someone that you find really attractive and interesting.
You know that you will share only a short time with him or her, but you intend to make the most the few days that you can spend together.
You want to live these moments with intensity and passion, knowing that they won’t last forever, and that you will have to part ways. You accept the situation and still open yourself fully to the experience.
There isn’t any indifference here, right? Still, the circumstances of this encounter force you to be non-attached to the other person and the experience you shared (unless you want to suffer greatly).
How Non-Attachment Empowers Love Relationships
You might think that our intimate relationships do not develop under the same conditions as the example above. But is that really so? After all, we human beings always share a finite lapse of time together, just the people on a packaged trip.
The major difference is that, in real life, you don’t have any clue about when your shared time with someone is going to come to an end.
The circumstances of life, the frailty of the human condition, the instability of emotions—all of these factors make relationships much less predictable than we usually believe. If you meditate deeply upon the impermanence of life, non-attachment will be the inevitable consequence.
But just as in the example above, non-attachment in real life does not mean indifference: on the contrary, it will empower you to live every relationship with love and intensity, knowing that it could end at any moment.
See also: How to Attract a Conscious/Evolved Man.
Non-attachment is a state of mind that will help you both in times of joy and sorrow. Life is a mixture of pleasure and pain, of comfort and hardship. We cling to pleasure, hoping that it will never leave, and we are overwhelmed by pain, fearing that it will never end.
By practicing non-attachment, we become able to endure difficult moments with a certain sense of humor, knowing that—as a wise saying goes—this too shall pass. In the same way, we can enjoy the beautiful moments of life without being tainted by the fear that they will end—as they undoubtedly will.
All this doesn’t mean that you need to live in constant insecurity, fearing that everything you rely upon could crumble at any given moment. Quite the opposite, not being attached to success and failure, or pleasure and pain, brings you back into connection with the only thing that is invariably present, stable, and safe: your center of pure awareness and pure love.
How Non-Attachment Moves You Toward Unconditional Love
When you start practicing non-attachment in your intimate relationships, you will have found one of the pathways that leads to unconditional love. Only a non-attached person can love unconditionally, that is, without expecting anything in return.
Being attached to someone means that you love him or her primarily because of his or her proximity or convenience, which makes you feel good. But what will happen when your loved one does something that upsets you, or simply decides to leave? All too often, attached love then turns into bitterness, anger and resentment.
When you love with non-attachment, you are not concerned with the results of your loving, which emanates from you just perfume from a flower. You can love a genuine overflow of energy from the heart, without any conditions or limitations.
If attached love expresses itself by the words “I love you, because…”, detached love just says “I love you,” without any conditions. Going one step further, you will realize that pure, unconditional love, is best expressed by the words “I love.
” As a great mystic once said: “Love is not a relationship, it is a state of being.”
Non-Attachment Brings a Universal Approach to the Way You Express Love
Unconditional love is independent of the object of love. Although in a particular moment of your life your love might be focused on one specific person, the act of loving does not depend on him or her. If that person disappeared from your life, the unconditional love would still be there, overflowing from the heart, ready to focus on another wonderful human being when the right time comes.
Non-attachment brings to your loving a quality of universality, in which the object of love is not anymore the cause of it. The source of any form of love is inside you, and you don’t depend on anyone to be able to express it.
This is one of the most liberating shifts that a person can experience. Perhaps, you have always believed that another person is responsible for bringing you into the wonderful state of being that you call “love.
” But this erroneous conception is the reason why you cling to others, you are afraid of their departure, and you put upon them the burden of making you happy. Once you understand that love springs from within you and that no one else is responsible for it, you can continue loving others, but the fear and the clinging disappear.
You realize that no event in life, not even the death of your loved one, can take this state of being away from you.
Learning to practice non-attachment is one of the most important tools to develop unconditional love, a non-clinging attitude toward both things and people, and the capacity to enjoy the present moment with intensity. Accepting the impermanence of life means reshaping all of our assumptions about existence—but thanks to this process, the possibility arises for us to love unreservedly, without conditions, and without fear.
Attachment and The Art of Letting Go
“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 proceeded to tell 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 or gain.
She has lived in true acceptance, and her sense of peace is palpable.
The Essence of Attachment
What does it mean to be attached? As we investigate closely, it seems to have to do with expectations. When we are attached to something – or someone – we want or need or long for circumstances to be a certain way.
We want our partner to stay with us forever (or we want one to appear), we don’t want our children to grow up, we want our bodies to magically resist the reality of aging, we certainly don’t want tragedy to strike.
We want things to be different, or we want them to stay the same.
Attachment carries with it the side effect of resistance. If we are attached to circumstances being a certain way, and they don’t match our wishes, we resist what is happening.
Resistance looks this: another lovely woman I know who is 88, losing her sight, barely able to walk across the room due to a failing heart, spending her days in despair wishing for her life to be the way it once was.
She is attached to wanting things a certain way and is greatly resisting her present circumstances. And she is suffering tremendously.
The Reality of Life Unfolding
The truth is no matter what we want, the events of life happen, sometimes matching our desires, and sometimes not. So the question becomes: how do we meet the moments of our lives? We may not be able to control what happens, but we have the opportunity to choose how we respond.
So, consider asking yourself:
- Am I weighed down by hopes and expectations?
- Am I resisting what is actually here?
It all boils down to a simple truth: resistance brings suffering; acceptance and openness bring ease. We stop the inner war, and choose peace instead.
Letting go of attachment means receiving what is happening, without resisting. We hold our desires very lightly and stay open to what actually occurs. Even if it is the last thing we would ever want to happen.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being attached. But if we want peace, if we want to truly enjoy the moments of our lives, can we surrender into reality, as it is? Can we say, “Yes!” with an open heart capable of holding it all?
Is there any area of your life in which you are attached? How does being attached affect you and those around you? What do you imagine non-attachment would be ?
I'm so glad you're here! If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others and sign up to receive FREE articles, guided meditations, and access to key insights from Gail's book, The End of Self-Help.
Thich Nhat Hanh: The Art of Letting Go
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist master, has some interesting advice about what it means to truly let go. Many people mistake detachment or non-clinging to be a form of aloofness or emotional disconnect from others, but as Hanh explains, truly letting go often means loving someone more than you have ever loved them before.
The Buddha taught that detachment, one of the disciplines on the Noble Path, also called ariyasaavaka, is not a physical act of withdrawal or even a form of austerity.
Though the Buddha teaches of a ‘non-action which is an integral part of the Right Way,’ if it is taken context it can give the impression that we should develop a lack of concern for others, and that we should live without truly feeling or expressing our emotions–cutting ourselves off from life.
These type of misinterpretations are sadly common since there are not always direct translations from the Paali language into English.
This form of detachment is an erroneous understanding of the Buddha’s message. Master Hanh states that to truly let go we must learn to love more completely. Non-attachment only happens when our love for another extends beyond our own personal expectations of gain, or our anticipation of a specific, desired outcome.
Hanh describes four forms of complete detachment, which surprisingly, aren’t about holing yourself up in a cave and ignoring everyone who has broken your heart, or ignoring your lust or desire for a romantic interest. This is not detachment. Letting go means diving in.
To truly let go we must learn to love more completely.
Maitri (Not the Love You Know)
Hanh describes the importance of Maitri, not love as we normally understand in a Westernized use of the word. He states:
The first aspect of true love is maitri (metta, in Pali), the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness.
To develop that capacity, we have to practice looking and listening deeply so that we know what to do and what not to do to make others happy.
If you offer your beloved something she does not need, that is not maitri. You have to see her real situation or what you offer might bring her unhappiness.
In other words, your detachment may come in accepting that certain things you would normally do to make another person feel loved and appreciated may not be what the person you are actively loving now, needs.
Instead of forcing that behavior on another person, with an egoic intent to ‘please’ them, you simply detach from that need in yourself and truly observe what makes another person feel comfortable, safe, and happy.
He further explains:
We have to use language more carefully. ‘Love’ is a beautiful word; we have to restore its meaning. The word ‘maitri’ has roots in the word mitra which means friend. In Buddhism, the primary meaning of love is friendship.
In Buddhism, the primary meaning of love is friendship.
The next form of true detachment is compassion. When we let go, we don’t stop offering a compassionate touch, word, or deed to help someone who is in pain. We also don’t expect to take their hurt or pain away. Compassion contains deep concern, though. It is not aloofness. It is not isolation from others.
The Buddha smiles because he understands why pain and suffering exist and because he also knows how to transform it. You become more deeply involved in life when you become detached from the outcome, but this does not mean you don’t participate fully–even in others’ pain.
Gratitude and Joy
In truly letting go you practice gratitude. Mudita, or joy, arises when we are overcome with gratitude for all that we have, such that we no longer cling to some other longed-for result. The Buddha’s definition of joy is more ‘unselfish joy.’ It means that we don’t only find happiness when something good happens to us, but when others find happiness.
If you’ve ever had to say goodbye to a love or friend so that they could continue on their life’s path–one that may not have continued to intertwine with your own–you may have felt pain when they found someone new to love, or made a new friend that seemed to take your place. This is not true detachment. Joy arises when you find happiness even when others find joy–and it has little or nothing to do with you.
In truly letting go you practice gratitude.
Master Hanh describes the final quality of true love which sheds inordinate light on the true process of letting go. He states:
The fourth element of true love is upeksha, which means equanimity, non-attachment, nondiscrimination, even-mindedness, or letting go. Upa means ‘over,’ and iksha means ‘to look.’ You climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other. If your love has attachment, discrimination, prejudice, or clinging in it, it is not true love.
People who do not understand Buddhism sometimes think upeksha means indifference, but true equanimity is neither cold nor indifferent. If you have more than one child, they are all your children. Upeksha does not mean that you don’t love. You love in a way that all your children receive your love, without discrimination.
Hanh explains that without this quality our love tends to become possessive–a stomping ground of the ego. We try to put our beloved in our pocket and carry them with us when they are more the wind, or a butterfly, or a stream, needing to move and flow, or risk dying. This is not love, this is destruction.
For love to be true love, it must have elements of compassion, joy, and equanimity–and this is truly letting go.
The Art of Letting Go is Artless
The real secret is that letting go is not an art, it is an allowing, a being. A non-attached relationship is healthy, strong and filled with effortless love, kindness, and compassion.
It is completely selfless because your sense of ‘self’ is no longer asserted in every situation. If you want to truly let go, you’ve got to love more, not less.
This is the most common misunderstanding about this priceless teaching of the Buddha.
7 Steps to Overcoming Attachment and Letting Go with Meditation
I organized these 7 steps what I believe to be the best order to meditate on each topic. Keep in mind, though, this isn't set in stone, so you can mix up the steps and meditate on these topics in whatever order suits you.
Look at these 7 meditations as allowing you to gain various perspectives on attachment. Because of that, this is essentially the act of dissolving it from multiple angles.
It's there's a force-field encircling an energy source, and you're attempting to weaken the force-field at various points to allow the light from the energy source to pierce through. The more you weaken the field, the more light pours through, and the more relief you feel.
Tackling these various perspectives allows you to weaken the field from all angles, and the collective effort is enough to provide much relief and can get you far on the path to letting go.
Ultimately, these steps work together so that you can gradually see into the true nature of attachment and realize how to let go and live more fully in peace and harmony with the world around you.
1. Meditate on attachment itself
The intention of this first meditation is to look at attachment itself very closely.
It's ingrained in our lives and in so many ways that it makes it very difficult to detect, but if you take time to contemplate on attachment, your attachments, you'll begin to see that attachment isn't “the way to happiness”, but the opposite: grasping on to things is actually causing you pain and suffering and moving you away from peace and happiness (it's causing friction).
To do this, begin by thinking of all the things you've ever attached yourself to. I know…big list. Don't worry, though, you don't have to think of everything, just as much as you can bring to memory.
Next, make a list of each of these things and meditate on each and every one of them. Remember to get creative and use the examples I gave in the introduction because the things we cling to aren't always obvious to us.
One thing you should be looking for is similarities. What are the hallmarks of an attachment? A penchant for doing whatever it took to get that thing, even at the cost of your own health and immediate happiness, is often one such quality.
By looking closely at all those things you've ever attached yourself to or strongly desired you'll begin to notice the essence of attachment itself, and simply that will begin to loosen the hold it has on you.
2. Meditate on the effect attachment has on you
Now think about current attachments. Notice the way our minds build additional fantasies and images around our attachments that make them seem better or different than they are.
Take this time to really dig deep and delve into why you're attached to those things which you've noticed you're attached to now. Why did you originally go to it? What do you hope to accomplish or get from it by grasping on to it? Begin to notice how these attachments are ideas, not the thing itself.
This meditation is about seeing more clearly about what it is you're attached to right now, and that should lead to many powerful insights.
This meditation is valuable for a number of attachments, including an attachment to food and physical appearances.
For instance, with an attachment to food, you can begin to meditate on the “complete” picture of the food in front of you. Meditate on the almost unimaginable amount of work it took to get your entire plate in front of you.
Think of the preparation (farming, growing), the continued maintenance, the picking/harvesting, the processing, the packaging, the transporting, the prepping, the selling, and preparing, and the cooking.
It takes easily hundreds of hours of labor from hundreds of people to bring your food to your plate exactly as it is now. Meditating deeply on this has the ability to permanently rewrite an attachment to that food, especially if inhumane conditions were used in growing it and processing it for sale.
Whatever it is, delve deeply into the real effect the attachment has on you and on the thing itself and you'll begin to see ways in which you can break that attachment.
3. Meditate on the impermanence of all things
Next, contemplate deeply on the principle of impermanence.
It's the way of life, we all know it, yet so many of us are afraid to face that fact.
Most of us live our lives with our heads turned the other way, thinking that by doing so we can make it somehow not exist anymore. But impermanence is life, there's no escaping it.
This isn't a cause for sadness or grief, though, this is cause for celebration. To live ever aware of the impermanence of life compels us to appreciate the things around us and therefore find more joy in each and every moment of our daily lives.
To meditate on impermanence is easy: simply contemplate on the fact that nothing lasts forever. The trees, the buildings, the people, and all the other things we hold on to dearly will someday die. Think deeply about this fact, and imagine watching as these things wither away and pass.
Also, meditate on how everything lives on in a different form. If a carcass sits on the dirt, it eventually decomposes and sifts into the soil, becoming a part of it. In very much the same way, we and everything else around us live on in a different form after we pass.
4. Meditate on your death
Next, take the last meditation to the next level and meditate on your own impermanence: imagine your own death. This might sound a little intense, and it can be, which is why I put this a little higher on the list and only after meditating on impermanence for some time.
What would it be to die and lose everything you're attached to? All your goals and ambitions, all your loved ones, and all your possessions? What would it be to lose the very idea you have of yourself as an individual (the ego)?
Imagine your death in as much detail as you can muster, and imagine what it would be to lose absolutely everything.
Most importantly, imagine what it would feel to let go of all those things you cling to in an effort to create a better life for yourself: the favorable ideas of yourself, your accomplishments, your cherished memories, and anything else it.
Take this meditation seriously, because it's one of the most powerful of the 7 steps.
5. Meditate on the interbeing of all things
Realize that nothing exists in the way you believe it does. What do I mean by this?
Think that flower exists in and of itself, independent of its environment and everything that comes in contact with it? That person? That tree? Even that idea? Think again.
Without dozens, sometimes hundreds and thousands, of other things to help support, nurture, and connect with it in some way that thing would cease to exist. Before you go thinking your attachment is this isolated thing, think again about the many things which made that thing a reality, and about the true nature of the thing you're attached to.
The truth of our interbeing is an interesting perspective to take on the idea of non-attachment because it's one that initially seems it has little in common with it. But our attachment to things is very much connected to the truth of our interbeing in that our attachment to things is often us reaching out and trying to “complete” ourselves because we feel just that: incomplete.
Realizing your interbeing, interbeing itself as an “aspect” of the world as a whole, and how your interbeing means that you're just as “special” as anything and anyone else is also realizing your wholeness.
And that can be an altogether liberating realization.
6. Meditate on past attachments and whether they led to long-term peace and happiness or not
For step 6, meditate on past attachments and whether they resulted in long-term peace and happiness or not.
Remember, this doesn't mean think about, say, any relationship you've had. This means think about a relationship if in that relationship you thought you could never live without that person again (when you were with them). Remember, it's the attachment that's important, and physical connection doesn't mean attachment.
So, how did it go with that attachment? Only reflect on past attachments for this one, because present ones have a strong ability to blind us.
This meditation is pretty simple, and somewhat depends on you having had ample life experiences to reflect on, but is has a powerful ability to make it crystal clear how attachment leads to suffering.
Another step to this meditation, especially if you're an artist or use your creativity on a regular basis through work or elsewhere, can be to meditate on when you've done your best work and when you've struggled.
Generally, it's when our mind is clouded and we're attached to some specific idea of how we want a project to turn out that we struggle, and it's when our mind is free and empty that our best work pours out from us without effort.
7. Meditate on your attachment to attachment (Meditate on the ego)
This is the deepest level. Here, you begin to meditate on why you continuously attach yourself to things in the first place.
Understanding attachment is one thing, understanding why you continue to attach yourself to things is another. You won't necessarily need to meditate on both, but they both offer different and valuable perspectives that can be useful to you.
To meditate on your attachment to attachment, think back again to all those things which you've previously attached yourself to. Now ask yourself this question, “what did I hope to get from attaching/desiring/grasping on to that thing?” Do this for each attachment.
This will begin to reveal a common theme, and therein uncover for you a powerful insight.
I mentioned the answer to this step at least once already in the article, but I won't spoil it for you here. If I just gave you the answer you'd get no benefit. That's because it's not about the answer, it's about your realization of the answer.
Sit- on a chair, on the floor, full lotus, cross-legged-, lay down, or walk. However you do it, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you meditate on attachment and the various truths of this life (impermanence, interbeing, death) which will help to gradually break down the hold attachments have on you.
If you take the time each day to practice, you'll begin to see with greater and greater clarity. And don't do it to get something, do it because you want to stop thinking you have to get things in the first place to be content with your life. Break the chain and discover where real peace and happiness exist.
Get the 7 Steps to Overcoming Attachment and Letting Go with Meditation PDF Workbook
Take the 7 steps to go and write notes from your meditation sessions with this PDF workbook guide: