A few years back the concept non-attachment entered my life. Although it fascinated me, you could say it resonated within me, I could not fully grasp it, understand it. It felt like there was a ‘hidden truth’ in there, but I just couldn’t pinpoint what that exactly was.
Today I understand it a bit better with the help of Michael Bernhard Beckwith. Luckily I saw him speak at MindValley’s A-Fest in Portugal last year and had the opportunity to participate in his teachings ‘Life Visioning Mastery’ via MindValley as well.
Attachment, detachment and non-attachment
To understand non-attachment to the fullest we must comprehend attachment first. What is attachment exactly? We people attache ourselves easily to other people, stuff and thoughts as well. We are needy for validation and acceptance via attachment. For example, gaining self-esteem from your possessions or feeling worthy by the love of your partner. We even attach ourselves to concepts and opinions. How often do we try to convince others of what we believe in. Instead of feeling worthy ourselves (from within), we need other people or items for validation. We experience a discrepancy to what we have and what we think we should have. So actually, we attach ourselves to an outcome.
Because of our attachments to something or someone we can easily get hurt or feel disappointed. In some cases we feel not taken seriously, although someone only rejects your view. Once we are in any sort of relationship, we are infected with the fear of loss or something serious might happen to the other one. Although the truth is we will loose the other one in the end; simply by death or seperation. So with detachment our expectations are actually broken. When we are chronically experiencing things are not going our way: we give up. We don’t care anymore. But then we not only avoid ‘bad’ things happening, we detach ourselves from something good happening as well. We are simply detached from life itself.
Detachment and non-attachment are not the same. Although it is often used synonymous. Unlike detachment, non-attachment allows full participation in life. It does not mean indifference or carelessness, but rather ‘you should do your best and not worry about the results’ (Michael Beckwith). It is about transcendence or dissolvement. And with the distinction between detachment and non-attachment it became more clear to me.
Non-attachment ≠ detachement
My objection to detachment was always the indifference or apathy towards life. That’s not what I wanted. For me life is about active participation in day-to-day life (the human experience). So turning my back on just that felt wrong. Understanding the difference between detachment and non-attachment was an insight an opened up a new pathway.
I see a similarity in the teachings from Stephen R Covey (author 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) on the Maturity Continuum. Which is about increasing maturity from dependance via independence to interdependence.
- Dependence is all about YOU. You should do this, You should that, You must change so.. → as in: I am dependent on YOU.
- Independence is about I. I can do this, I am self-sufficient, I am capable → as in: I am independent.
- Interdependence is all about WE. We can co-operate, we can be a team, we can combine our talents → as in: WE will do this together. Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s OUR way.
We are born highly dependent and whilst we are growing up, we are becoming more independent (physically, mentally, emotionally and financially) with age (read also my blog on the stages of human life’s journey). Our physical independency however doesn’t relate to our emotional or mental maturity. And the other way around. In our society being independent is seen as the avowed goal. But it is most of the time a counter-reaction to being dependent. We see people leaving their families ‘to live their own lives’ or ‘to unchain themselves’, which is actually a sign of high inner-dependency. Independence isn’t logic on an earth where everything is connected. Being interdependent is inherent to life and a more mature starting point.
Interdependence means you remain independent, but at the same time are aware that together you can realise more. You have your own ideas, but remain open-minded and open-hearted. ONLY people who are independent can choose to be interdependent. Dependent people just can’t, they have too little personality.
My insight on non-attachment
I assume it is more or less the same with attachment. Babies come into this live completely non-attached; we call that innocence. Than parents, grand-parents, teachers etc start preparing our children for life. We ingrain them with rules, values, culture. By doing so, we actually attach them to our believe-system. We call it development and education. With adolescence our calibration starts; do I accept (some items) in the taught believe-system (re-attachment) or do I favour something else (detachment followed by attachment to the new). Non-attachment however means that you do not identify yourself with a specific outcome anymore. You go with the flow and the outcome doesn’t matter. In non-attachment you actually transcend the topic. It doesn’t exist or matter anymore.
The popular trap
Once we know all the above we want to be non-attached. But striving for non-attachment is actually a new form of attachment. Duality exists for the majority of us. We either agree with a concept/idea or we aim to do it completely different. Which is most of the time the opposite. In both cases the topic still matters. Examples: my father was an angry man, so I won’t express my anger. Or my mom was a financially dependent woman and I shall be financially independent no matter what. In both situations the topic still matters. So be warned for the need to be non-attached.
How to become non-attached?
If we should not strive for non-attachment, then how to become non-attached? I think it is like Eckhart Tolle says:
“Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before you die – and find that there is no death.”– Eckhart Tolle
We have to strip ourselves of our identifications. Do you still identify with: your name, gender, country, culture, career and religion? Does it still matter? Meditation and mindfulness are great tools.
Let’s do an exercise. Turn off all your senses for one minute. Is it working? Or a you confused now? You can close your eyes, but you still see although it’s dark. You will find out you can’t stop smelling and you can’t stop hearing. The same goes for your breath. Although we say I am breathing, we actually are ‘being breathed’. And what about your thoughts. Can you stop your thinking? I can’t. Thoughts come and go in a continuous stream. I don’ t have to do anything. It is not me who is thinking. This small exercise proofs although we say ‘I see’ or ‘I breath’, there IS vision and there IS breath. It has nothing to do with me. Once I am aware, non-attachment is possible.