Non-attachment. Attachment. Is one good and the other bad? I’m not sure anymore. Non-attachment first crossed my path in a yoga class in my mid 20’s. I dug it. It seemed simple enough at first. It helped me let go of a few things that were making me anxious. Don’t be attached to your stuff. OK. Don’t be attached to the past or the future. I could work on that.
As I applied the concept to more things, however, it got a little trickier. Don’t be attached to what people think about you. Don’t be attached to people. Heck, don’t be attached to life. What? How am I NOT supposed to be attached to my family, my friends or my sweet dog? For real. When my father passed away, was I supposed to just calmly accept it and smile, knowing that he was transitioning to some more peaceful place? I’m not sure what I was supposed to do, but I’ll tell you what I did. I wailed. I broke down and threw things. I was messy for a while. Was that wrong? Was I too ‘attached’ to him? I don’t think it’s that black and white.
To deconstruct non-attachment in a situation like that, I had to apply another spiritual concept:
Accepting what is.
'Accepting what is' helps me practice non-attachment (and many other things) with much less judgement towards myself. Knowing I would never see my dad again, I understandably felt incredibly sad; at times inconsolable so. Accepting those feelings (and all the others that arose during that time) as opposed to judging them as good or bad; appropriate or inappropriate made that situation more bearable.
With that, what I CAN strive for is to accept, but not get attached to the feelings that I have, as opposed to trying to not have them in the first place. I can strive to not identify with them or become stuck in them. I don’t have to BECOME sadness, depression or anxiety or become the person who has lost someone special. I am still Jacque who happens to be experiencing intense emotions about a situation.
Feelings, emotions, thoughts and situations are all temporary, no matter how intense they seem. Let's allow the thoughts and feelings to be. Allow the situation to unfold (especially if we have no control over it). And then let it all pass. Learn from it. Serve from it, but don’t hold on too tightly to any of it. That’s the non-attachment for which we can strive.
What about attachment to goals, dreams, and desires? We want what we want, but sometimes feel bad because we’ve been told it may not be spiritually ‘acceptable’ to want things like wealth, material stuff or even success. Judgement around what we desire is part of it, but for many of us it may go a bit deeper than that.
Some of us have a penchant for perfectionism. We can judge ourselves so harshly against such ridiculously high standards that we think we are failing before we even start. Because of this, I used to just let life happen to me without too much intention or direction on my part. However, because I was on a ‘spiritual path,' I could hide all that fear and paralysis behind being peaceful, easy-going and accepting whatever came my way. I wasn’t ‘attached’ to anything in the future. Looking back now, I call spiritual bullshit. I was hiding behind these spiritual principles because I was terrified. I was terrified to do anything different for fear of what others would think and because of my own harsh judgements. After all, I was, by far, my most evil critic.
Many of us use non-attachment, peace and harmony as a way of HIDING behind discovering and claiming what we really want in life and going for it. Or we might gingerly claim something we want in life, but not put too much energy or passion behind it because we don’t want to get too 'attached' if it doesn't work out; if we fail, or even scarier... if we succeed.
In reality, attachment has nothing to do with it. Fear and ego are the culprits here sneakily telling us not to dream too big, ask for too much, stand out too far, claim anything too loudly. Then, if it does or doesn't work out, we won’t get hurt. We won’t be revealed.
THERE ARE NO GOLD STARS FOR ACTING LIKE WE DON'T CARE IF OUR LIVES DON'T WORK OUT THE WAY WE WANT THEM TO.
In fact, uncovering the real you, which includes your passions, desires, dreams, and goals is a very lofty spiritual practice unto itself. Cultivating your spiritual gifts that only you can bring to the world and letting those shine brightly… that’s gold-star-worthy.
So, let’s quit hiding. Let’s figure out what we want from our lives no matter how big, little, absurd, boring, frivolous, strange or controversial it might be. If it’s in you, it’s time to bring it forth, cultivate and nurture it. Claim it with passion. Make a plan. Take action. Get support. Start somewhere and most importantly, have compassion for yourself throughout the process.
As you uncover your desires and goals, by all means, PLEASE ATTACH! Attach love, energy, passion, and compassion to them and to yourself. Don’t attach to having it look a certain way to get from A to B, though. Yes, have a plan; take inspired action, but leave plenty of wiggle room for the universe and other people to come in and support you in ways you can’t possibly imagine right now. Non-attachment is allowing for flexibility and magic to occur. Allow yourself to believe and be OK with the fact that you don’t have all the answers when you start. Stay flexible in the process, and even in the end result, as it may end up greater than you first imagined. Claim what you want and go for it. Moreover, be able to let it all go when it no longer serves or delights you. Allow your desires to evolve as you grow.
Also, learn to say 'no' to things that don’t light you up. Let’s DETACH from pleasing other people by doing and carrying what’s not ours to do or carry. A while back, my healer asked me how I was feeling about a board position of a non-profit for which I was considering running and I heard myself making lots of rationalizations of why I SHOULD do it. Yet, in the next breath what came was “Well, to be honest, it’s not like I’m running and knocking people over yelling, 'GET OUT OF MY WAY! I MUST DO THIS THING!'” There was my answer. I am incredibly passionate about the work the group is doing, but serving on the board was not my thing. Another, more aligned opportunity will come along. The more I say 'no' to the things I don’t feel ‘super high-fivey pumped’ about, the more aligned opportunities will start to show up.
Remember, too, it’s all a practice. It takes time. Be gentle. We won’t be perfect in the beginning. Actually, we will never be perfect because we are all perfectly and wonderfully imperfect. We will practice these principles through our own filters, our lenses, our experiences, our feelings and judgements. We will make some mistakes. It happens. That’s OK. Have compassion with yourself and others in this process. It’s confusing, scary and can also be a whole lot of freakin' fun if we let it. Get support and be supportive to others. Create some systems and loving discipline around your practice.
COMMIT TO YOURSELF TO UNRAVEL MORE OF YOUR STORY. THE WORLD WANTS TO HEAR IT, I PROMISE!
Jacque Saltsman is a Healer and Life Coach who is committed to the empowerment and healing of women locally and globally. Jacque has attended and staffed the Woman Within Training Weekend and sits in an amazing E-circle in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. She can be found at jacquesaltsman.com.