I had the honor of giving another little talk after a friend’s yoga class, this time on Attachment. Here are my notes:

WHAT IS ATTACHMENT?

Attachment is one of the five obstacles of yoga (Ego, Clinging to Bodily Life, Attachment, Hatred, Ignorance)

Humans brains are wired to be attached to the things we like, and to avoid the things we don’t like. Even at birth, we want what makes us feel secure – Mom’s soothing voice, snuggly hugs, soft blankies. And we don’t want the things that make us uncomfortable – bright lights, loud noises, wet diapeys. As we grow, we form new attachments through direct experience, and also by watching the values and culture that those around us practice.

Avoidance is also a kind of attachment. We’re attached to staying away from whatever that person, thing, or emotion is, and we will often go to great lengths to keep it as far away as possible.

We’re attached to hundreds of things:

  • Material likes: money, house, car, job, our appearance, our friends/family, possessions, certain foods (aka comfort food), pets, neighborhoods, products or brands with perceived value
  • Emotional likes: keeping up with Joneses, health, feelings of love and compassion, warmth, certain colors, smells and sounds. Can also be attached to what something represents like yoga class, nature, family, material things, certain states of being
  • Material dislikes: loss of material things, damage, change, products or brands with low perceived value
  • Emotional dislikes: fear, negative energy, anger, coldness, hatred, rudeness, illness & death and what they represent, insults to our egos, being the subject of ill will or gossip

There is a cost to being attached, as well. Could you take better care of your health if you spent less money on wants and more on needs? Could you have a more fulfilling life if you spent less energy on maintaining an image and more on your passions?

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

We all want to be happy, but we pin our happiness to things, emotions, labels, people, and circumstances.

We stress out over losing those things, or if they change (which is inevitable). We let our attachments define and label us. We enjoy being “mom” or “blonde” or “breadwinner” or “fabulous body” or “teacher” or “smart”. Ironically, when we change we sometimes have to work very hard to change how others perceive us, because they still see us wearing an old label.

We can even be attached to negative definitions and labels. For example, if one was to wallow in disappointment or regret for too long, that feeling and state of being begins to feel comfortable and safe, even if we suffer for being there.

We cling desperately to all these things, afraid that they will slip away or will be taken away. However… we cannot find happiness and live in the present when we’re clinging in fear – we’re too busy holding on to be mindful of the life that is going on around us. In order to be able to open up, we have to let go. Once you get past the fear, letting go of our attachments brings more contentment than you get by clinging to them. You no longer have to worry about them, about how they’re perceived, about maintaining them. You have more time and energy, and sometimes money, to invest in the things that matter and make a difference in your life and this world.

HOW TO LET GO

  • Live in the moment. Let the past go and don’t fret the future. The one constant is that nothing is permanent – fighting this reality will only bring suffering and pain.
  • Enjoy every moment. Because now that moment is gone.
  • Define yourself in flexible terms. We grow and evolve constantly. Don’t define yourself by what you have (roles, responsibilities, relationships), but define yourself by who you are.
  • Expand your circle. Don’t depend on just a couple of relationships, because when they change, and they will, it will feel like losing a lifeline. There are six billion people on this planet – get to know a few of them.
  • Invest in yourself. Investigate your own interests and passions. These are things nobody can take away from you.
  • Practice “It Just Is”. Let it be. Strive for a better tomorrow, but accept this moment for what it is.
  • Choose peace. Even if you think you want to stay hurt and angry, make a conscious choice to make peace with what happened and how you feel. Bring in compassion for yourself and others. Allow yourself to forgive.
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