Freedom of Non-Attachment Part 2
Last week we began talking about non-attachment and the life changing power it can have in our relationships with others and most importantly, ourselves. You might be thinking, ‘But how can I love deeply, fully and passionately without being attached to that person?’ Not only is it possible, but ultimately the only way to truly love unconditionally.
Non-attachment is not the same as detachment or indifference. It is important to clarify this common misunderstanding. To be detached is to be rigid, indifferent, cut off from the heart. People who are detached are often covering up their fear. The fear of not getting what they want. The fear that someone may leave them. The fear of rejection. Detachment is defense against disappointment.
Conversely, non-attachment is open and spacious. Because you are not attached to how life should be, you are open to infinite possibilities. You do not waste energy clinging to a job, person or relationship. You do not try and control others or situations. You live in the flow of life, without expectations of how people show up, or even IF they show up.
Michael Beckwith, spiritual leader of Agape Spiritual Center described it as “Detached is, ‘I’m not playing anymore. I’m taking my ball and going home.’ Whereas non-attached is ‘I’m playing full-out, but I’m not attached to an outcome.’” Being attached to the outcome can limit you as to how or when it comes to you. You have filters up that come from expectations.
Let’s say you go to a conference with people from all over the world. You meet someone from Sweden and a connection forms. You know you will not see this person again. You decide to make the most out of the time you do have and enjoy the experience. You spend the next three days fully present, being fully open, knowing that it is a finite amount of time. You may be sad when you part ways, but you had no expectation that anything would continue past your time at the conference so you do not suffer.
In reality, how is the above situation any different from how we engage with people in “real life”? We may think that when we meet someone we connect with and begin a relationship that there is implied longevity, but truly there isn’t. Life circumstances, the frailty of the human condition and the changing tide of emotions make every relationship as potentially transient as the three-day encounter at the conference. Does this mean we shouldn’t open our hearts because people could leave at any time? No. It means we should live fully, passionately and openly, knowing that all we have is this now moment. Everything is impermanent.
So now that we are “in relationship” with someone, knowing that it is impermanent, living fully and passionately, why do we get so upset when he leaves the toilet seat up, or checks his phone throughout your entire dinner on the town? One word. Expectations. We tend to fall in love with the image of our significant other, either at their best, or the caricature of the perfect partner we’ve created in our minds. When that person doesn’t live up to that expectation, we suffer.
To end that suffering we must accept our partners/friends/family fully for who they are in each moment no matter what changes. Take a breath. That’s right. You cannot change another person. Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. If your partner continues to make plans with you and then cancel at the last minute, you have every right to discontinue your relationship. The difference in living from non-attachment is that you don’t assign meaning to the situation. You don’t say, ‘I’m not good enough’, or ‘why doesn’t he want to be with me?’. You accept your partner and the situation as it is, and then make a decision. You may decide that your time is more valuable and choose not to be in relationship with that person. The secret is acceptance. Acceptance of the situation. Acceptance of the other person. Acceptance of yourself.
When you start practicing non-attachment in your intimate relationships, you will open one of the pathways that leads to unconditional love. Only a non-attached person can truly love unconditionally, that is, without expecting anything in return.
Stay tuned next week for practical techniques on how to live from a place of full acceptance and unconditional love.