Wisdom Principle- Non-attachment
What is Non-attachment?
One of the most misunderstood and cryptic concepts in the search for meaning and abiding inner calm is the concept of non-attachment. The term is little used in the world at today, but important in spiritual applications, and especially for those who are unhappy with being only normal.
Non-attachment is usually thought of as the idea of getting rid of things of this world—doing without—either because things are bad in themselves, or that they lead to bad consequences, or that they hinder the pursuit of higher truth, freedom, and ultimate happiness.
Truth is, non-attachment has nothing to do with giving up living in this world, or forsaking things in favor of an austere path to God. Even those who consider themselves seekers of truth or enlightenment have such difficulty with this concept that in many (I believe most) cases it delays and even long prevents their attainment of true happiness. How does this happen?
Many who embark on the journey to find the essence of interior life have been tainted by their own undisciplined inclinations and urges and arrive at faulty conclusions. They believe they must renounce things of the material world, which idea is an unconscious reaction to their unrecognized and unaccepted excessive desire to acquire. One urge is polarized to the other. These two forces—urges to have, vs. compulsion to deny-- wreak havoc on their egos, which itself struggles to reconcile the two apparently disparate necessities: How to forsake the world’s goods and pleasures, and yet how to live survive in it.
The problem for seekers is their unaddressed, harbored resistance to giving anything up at all! Seekers are for the most part not even aware of their hidden “I want it all” agenda, let alone admit it and deal with it.
The real solution to this problem for good will seekers of freedom, is to examine themselves, discover ego’s secret refusal to surrender anything, own this truth fully, and then study to deeply understand the incredibly benevolent concept of non-attachment.
Gandhi was once asked by the media to explain in 25 words the essence of his principle of Satyagraha. He said: “I can do it in three—renounce and enjoy.” And there is the brilliant essence of non-attachment, which does not require going into destitution to gain access to the inner light. Rather, the reality is that one must learn the hard lesson that everything is ethereal; that nothing really “belongs” to us; that attaining non-attachment means an ego-freedom from being influence by material (as well as emotional) things and events; and that once is accomplished all these other material things can be genuinely enjoyed with a childlike simplicity. This uncomplicated explanation in no way suggests that such an accomplishment is easy to do. Rather, years, decades of work are in store for the serious seeker. And, pitfalls along the way include repeatedly mistaking non-attachment with renunciation. Ego will never—I say never—easily renounce its romance with material reality. Ego is there to protect and promote our security. Ego has imprinted (a psychological concept that means it has attached itself to something it values, and does not see the negative side of the attachment, even it if will threaten to destroy him/her) early on, onto the idea that these material things are required for survival; and after that, they are required for comfort and enjoyment. Because of this, it is so very difficult for ego to re-imprint upon the idea that it can surrender its urge to have, and to store, and to stash.
The secret is study. Study the concept, read about it, meditate upon it, apply it to life and see how ego rebels. Then endure the rebellion without giving in to ego’s tantrum. This requires a strengthened mind. Use replacement goals for ego’s unreasonable requests. Associate with a fellow traveler who is dealing with the same attachment issue.
Here is an example. You find yourself wanting something you know you don’t need, like some new clothes that would only serve your ego’s need to be seen and admired and maybe better accepted. Go to the store in question, look over the clothes you want. Look, feel, imagine them on you. Picture yourself in the presence of others with those cloths. Spend some time doing this. Then, walk out of the store, leaving the clothes behind, and go about some already pre-determined business or errand. This is your one-two punch. Punch two is important—get yourself away from the seductive item, and involved in something else that is a legitimate non-invested activity that is neutral to ego. That is, endure the feelings of loss or desire or discomfort that arise as a result of walking away from the first store. If you are quite serious about learning and benefiting from becoming non-attached, then return home or go to a safe quiet place and meditate upon what you have just done and endured. Punch three! As you relax and breathe, gaze upon your previous activities, replying them in your mind just as the happened. Watch the action as if watching a movie, and breathe slowly and somewhat deeply throughout the meditation. Once you have run through this replay once or twice, finish your meditation and go about your day.
If you don’t know how to meditate, then find a teacher and learn. It will be the one best thing you have ever done for yourself on this planet. Or, you can wait until my next publication, which will be on meditation.