Practicing non-attachment

The practice of non-attachment has come up in conversation several times this past week, and now seems like a good time to revisit the concept.

Sometimes, you do everything just right, and things still don’t work out. You planned carefully, put your intentions out to the Universe, crossed all your t’s and dotted all your i’s, and still, life has a funny way of derailing the best laid plans at times.

When that happens, it’s pretty easy to feel frustrated, impatient, angry, overwhelmed, confused, disappointed, and unsure of yourself. Even worse, I notice a lot of my clients and friends take things a step further and start being really hard on themselves for not being perfect and making the outcome work out they way they intended. So add to the original feelings a lot of guilt, self-loathing and berating. This is a pretty rough place to be in and can start a downward spiral that takes you further and further from the joy and abundance you want in your life.

When life happens to derail your best laid plans, I encourage you to take a step back and practice what the Buddhists call non-attachment. Non-attachment is letting go of your attachment to the outcome, and also letting go of your desire for control over the situation. Release your misplaced responsibility and approach yourself with compassion. Even if you do find that there was a true mistake of judgment that you made in the situation, you can apologize, learn your lesson and move on from it without being mean to yourself.

I learned about non-attachment on my journey with chronic pain. I know all the tricks for managing pain, and sometimes even my best intentions don’t work. Pain, like so many things in life, often has a mind and a purpose of it’s own that is completely outside of my conscious control. In the beginning, I would have a lot of anger at my body for subjecting me to this misery, but I eventually realized that this wasn’t getting me anywhere but more unhappy.

I realized that just like when completely unanticipated things happen, I can’t always control pain. But I can control my response and actions. I can choose not to have an angry or knee-jerk reaction and instead to respond to the situation at hand in a way that feels right and aligned with my original intentions.

I came up with this simple process for dealing with a flare-up and dealing with unanticipated life situations that throw me for a loop.

  • Stop: Take a deep breath and release the need to be in control of the situation on your exhale.
  • Listen: Ask your inner self what do I need right now? Listen for the answer as long as you need until you are certain.
  • Respond with a Loving Action: Choose how you want to respond to the situation from a loving place. Be kind to yourself, the other people involved and even allow yourself to laugh a bit about the predicament you are in.

If you can, be grateful for this lesson to slow down, reassess and get clarity. What I’ve discovered is that when I can approach the unexpected, unplanned interruptions with compassion, and even a bit of gratitude, another opportunity presents itself.

Is there a situation in your life right now that would benefit from practicing non-attachment? Give it a try and let me know what happens!

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