It means what the name implies. Essentially, non-attachment is developing a cool detachment from all the shyt you experience in your life.
Non-attachment is one of the core concepts of many religions, particularly in the East, where consumerism isn’t historically nearly as rampant as it is in the West…(though sadly, all indications appear that the virus of consumerism is becoming insidious, everywhere). Buddhism, for example, talks of our attachments to things, people, emotions and ideas as the root of all miseries. This is easy to see. If we did not have such attachments to these things, we wouldn’t be affected when they do not match up to our expectations, nor spend the energy to vehemently protect them when a perceived threat enters the picture.
So while the concept of non-attachment is many thousands of years old, you can imagine how much more important it is today in modern society with the onslaught of stimuli as compared to five thousand years ago, or longer, when life was filled with considerably less things competing for our attention.
Non-attachment doesn’t mean that you become a vacant, soulless, boring individual. This is one of the objections that I hear from others in relation to this concept of non-attachment. It is just another means, along with meditation, taming the Ego, and addressing your Karmic shortfall, that help to bring absolute clarity to your life.
I was talking to this young man who works at the coffee shop where I habitually go to write. He expressed an interest in the series of notes I had laid about me, under my coffee cup, as I pecked away at another manuscript. So we started to talk about energy and purification and he was quite full of knowledge on the band Tool (who I’ve been a causal fan of for many years) and their lyrics and philosophy. He had all of their albums on special edition vinyl and expressed how they were his “babies.” How he’d have to protect them from the weather and how he was stuck listening to them on a folded chair in the basement, where it was cooler, but damp and uncomfortable.
When we came to the topic of non-attachment, it’s like he had an epiphany and his jaw nearly hit the floor. He realized that he was investing much too much life energy into these record albums that, despite their petroleum base, were just as impermanent as anything in this Universe.
Did he necessarily toss his Tool albums out? No, and I wouldn’t expect him to. But his relationship to them, his attachment to them, changed on the spot and it is a concept he can now explore in other areas of his life and hopefully find contentment.
With non-attachment, many doors open that you’ve unknowingly kept shut. You can live your life’s purpose without concern as to whether someone else finds it crazy. This is something that I’ve come to experience in my own life. I’ve spent nearly twenty years in the corporate world, more than half of that working my way up the ladder for a global banking institution. But my interests have always led me back to this spiritual path, going for further education in Theology and Philosophy, writing books and blogs on the side. These are things that I would keep secret from those who knew me, particularly at work. I spent much energy being uncomfortable with the idea of others finding out, being dismissive and short if anyone bothered to ask me about this sideline.
But now it does not bother me, because I’ve trained myself to not be bothered by this.
You want the secret to defeating negative and destructive thoughts?
1. Be conscious and present with your thoughts.
2. When you recognize that they are going down a negative path, remind yourself that this is going in the wrong direction.
I don’t invest any more energy into hiding what I do. If someone asks me about it, I patiently and clearly begin to explain it conceptually, and when I sense that a person doesn’t want to go down this path, I stop. I cannot control what they think or do, and so I don’t invest any more energy in being attached to what they say or do.
A more difficult application of this concept for me is in regards to parenting. I have triplets who, at the time of this writing, have just turned three years old. If one were to take the to measure their progress against other three years olds, or even against each other, one would likely perceive that my children are far behind the curve of development. My two boys are autistic, but on very different ends of the spectrum. My one boy does not talk. He often acts out in ways that I can’t comprehend, continually pushing the boundaries of safety and soundness. My other son talks a lot, but in a repetitive manner as sometimes expressed in autistic children. He is very underdeveloped with his capacity to use his body and do basic occupational tasks like feeding himself with a fork or spoon, though this is slowly improving. While my daughter seems further ahead than the boys, we’ve lamented that she perhaps is being held back because we must work on the basics with the boys and their therapists.
All these worries were robbing us of vital energy to be the best parents we can be. It is with great patience that I’m continuing to learn, to back off and let them develop as is natural for them, and not attaching my self-worth to their progress toward milestones. Rather than governing or even intervening all the time, I am learning to guide and allowing them to learn on their own.
Continuing on, a strategy that you must adopt is to stay out of other people’s dramas. You free up enormous energetic reserves by not investing your time and energy into everyone else’s dramas. You don’t need to announce this, or to act in some way that may be perceived as rude. Just do not become attached to the situation at all.
So the thought is that all this non-attachment stuff makes you out to be a cold, uncaring bastard. But in the few people I’ve met who practice non-attachment, particularly gurus who’ve I’ve learned from in the past, they have an incredibly warm and calming disposition.
What is best way to cultivate non-attachment?
It is the one subject I riff about the most on this blog, and that’s because it is so simple and effective.
In practice, you realize that there is a Seer (you) and the Seen. And you do not have to get attached to the Seen. They are two separate things. The choice lies within you.
Meditation, at least twenty minutes a day. Preferably several times per day.
That is the antidote.