A few years ago I experienced a moment of perfect clarity.
The timing of this epiphany was impeccable. You see, I was in the throes of an emotional experience – a longing to have more. More time with a person who was not truly mine, more of his touch, more of his love. More. More. More. And I was perfectly miserable.
It was in the middle of a phone call with him, where I was attempting to explain my needs and he was trying to explain his inability to meet my needs, that a light and a calming energy filled my mind. Suddenly I understood. The enlightenment was simply: This experience, and this person, is meant to teach you how to love unconditionally but without attachment.
As the beauty of that moment washed over me and I realized that this was my moment to be taught how to lift myself to a higher level of being. I felt peace in a way that I hadn’t ever experienced it before.
What happened that day led me to a daily practice of what I like to describe as “Accept what comes/accept what goes.” I began, in earnest, to train my mind and my heart in the art of fully experiencing the love that comes to me, in whatever form it takes – simultaneously training myself to remain unattached to the outcome.
If you’ve ever had your heart broken by a lover, or lost a beloved family member or pet, you were attached. Well of course I’m attached, you may be thinking. And yes, the world very much believes in attachment – to people, places, things, emotions and experiences. It may seem completely foreign and utterly impossible to you at this moment to imagine that you can love your husband, your wife, your friends, your children and your dog WITHOUT becoming attached. Yet it is entirely possible.
I challenge you to strip the meaning you’ve previously associated with the word attached. We use it to express love, devotion and commitment. We “get attached” to people. We “get attached” to things. Oh, my heavens, especially things! We “get attached” to our pets, to our workspace, to our homes, to our cars and to our beliefs.
Attached. It sounds like a good thing, right? It shows we are dedicated, it shows we care and that we value people, places and things. In contrast, unattached is a different feeling, isn’t it? It feels like the opposite of love, care and concern. It sounds cold, indifferent, devoid of the kindness and compassion that surely embodies the word attached. But again, what if we were to also strip it of the meaning with which it has previously been associated?
What if the art of becoming detached means we can lose the fear of losing control? Just let whatever happens, happen. It sounds like a touch cliché, I admit. But in this practice, there is great power – to stop chasing after people and to simply allow them to come in and out of your life freely. Love people fiercely during the time they are with you without fear of losing them. But if you lose them, still love them fiercely. Be able to finally let go of the hurts that are created by the attempt to force the positive to remain. Freedom to feel the emotions that come with love, and loss, and fear, and pain and then release them. Become more compassionate. Lose your expectations of the outcome of a given experience and watch how the experience immediately takes on a grand new meaning.
It does take practice – daily, and even moment-to-moment practice. My experience with unattachment (used interchangeably with detachment, or the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment*) has transformed my soul. It is perhaps the single-most important discipline I’ve learned to date. I am free to love and be loved without fear of time. I am free to experience everything without the disappointment expectations often bring. I am free to have, express and release emotions without getting stuck.
Because I am unattached, I love myself and others with wild abandon, and I have never, ever, been happier.
*Since beginning to teach myself, I found that the practice has roots in Buddhism. I was, and still am, ignorant of the tenants of Buddhism save this one practice.