The idea of permanence, in many cases, sounds good, right? What feelings come to mind when permanence is associated with a job, friendship or romantic relationship, to name a few?
Freedom from worry and anxiety?
When you take the time to think about your job, friendship, or romantic relationship, from a logical or factual standpoint, it can be argued that permanency or certainty does not exist.
It cannot exist.
Queue the philosophy of non-attachment. The idea of non-attachment, while not new, in my opinion is still deeply misunderstood, often carrying negative connotations. Recent discussions about these misconceptions is what sparked my interest in writing this article.
What is non-attachment?
The Oxford dictionary defines detachment as “a state of being objective or aloof”, but spiritual author Ron W. Rathbun wrote, “True detachment isn’t a separation from life, but the absolute freedom within your mind to explore living.”
Simply put, focus less on the end goal and more on the process.
Embracing the impermanence and uncertainty of life doesn’t mean you’re non-committal or apathetic
I have fielded a lot of questions about my choices at this point in my life: having only enough belongings to fit into, more or less, 2 suitcases and 2 backpacks; not seeking full-time employment with a company; moving and uprooting myself rather frequently; and not seeking home ownership.
When asked, I’m happy to share my rationale for these choices, but my explanation is often met with some skepticism, such as: “well, do you think you have trouble with commitment?” or “don’t you…care?”
Secular Buddhism best captures my standard reply through one of their podcast episodes, explaining, “Non-attachment isn’t a form of indifference or self-denial. Think of non-attachment as a way of not allowing things (e.g. our possessions, jobs, relationships (family, friends and romantic)), in your life to own you.
Attachment is our unwillingness to face the reality that all things change and evolve over time.
Accepting impermanence isn’t a gateway to disengaging or “checking out” in life, but a gateway to freedom and growth.
How to practice non-attachment in 5 steps
Drawing from The Chopra Center website, here are 5 steps to practicing non-attachment:
Observe your mind: Become aware of what kind of thoughts you habitually think. What things or descriptors do you identify with most? Become a student of self and heighten your awareness of where attachment happens more frequently for you. Recognize attachment comes with an emotional charge. Notice where you feel this in your physical body. It’s different for each individual and learning your patterns is a useful tool in creating change.
Distinguish between the voice of your ego and the actual situation: Your ego might tell you that not getting the job you want has ruined your career. The actual situation is: you are disappointed because you don’t have something you never had in the first place. There has been no loss. Nothing has changed except your thoughts about your future potential. The actual situation is the same as it was prior to not getting the job.
Embrace uncertainty: Only a willingness to embrace the unknown provides security. As Deepak Chopra says, “Those who seek security in the exterior world chase it for a lifetime. By letting go of your attachment to the illusion of security, which is really an attachment to the known, you step into the field of all possibilities. This is where you will find true happiness, abundance, and fulfillment.”
Meditate on it: Meditation is a vehicle to help your mind release patterns of thought and action that no longer serve you. Spend some time in meditation each day and watch how the patterns in your life begin to change.
Don’t beat yourself up for falling into old habits: The first step in making change is recognizing what it is you want to change. Instead of getting frustrated or disappointed when you fall back into an old habit, celebrate that you are now noticing when you repeat the pattern of thought or habit. In time, this will allow you to transform your behavior.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!