Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More on Non-Attachment

I think that attachment gets a bad rap. Sometimes attachment is a good thing. Consider parenting, for instance. If we didn't get attached to our kids, we wouldn't take care of them. In fact, improper attachment at birth can make growing up really difficult. So attachment itself isn't necessarily the problem.

In healthy relationships, some kind of attachment helps to form a seal so a container is made that hold things. Like life. Experiences, feelings, businesses, families, poetry, all kinds of things. The attachment itself can be like glue and is useful. The hard part comes when the attachment is broken. How do we respond when we don't have the thing we're attached to? Or does fear of loss come up just from being attached to something?

To walk around in complete detachment isn't really human or very realistic. It's also one of the symptoms of being a sociopath. It comes in handy to be able to detach when it's time to let go for sure, but to be afraid to get in there and feel and love and connect just because we're anticipating the one day when it's all over and how rotten that will feel, is sort of sad. Knowing how to detach effectively sounds to me like the skill to master. Be attached when appropriate, and be unattached when appropriate. To generalize and say all attachment is bad and everything in life is the same as every other thing isn't allowing for variety, our preferences, our particular voice to be heard or raised.

To distinguish this, sometimes we consider the difference between commitment and attachment. Being committed gives us direction and purpose and freedom for the thing we're committed to to happen or not happen. Being attached implies there will be some clinging if the thing doesn't happen and that there will be some pain involved if the thing doesn't happen. Commitment implies being present whereas attachment implies being stuck in our ways, which is not being present. And on the other hand, some people have a lot of trouble with the word commitment, as they get it mixed up with attachment. Keeping them separate is helpful at understanding how to be FOR something without being ATTACHED to it. Get it?

One of the ways to find out if you're committed to something or attached to something is to reflect on how it would feel if that thing were not around anymore. That cup of coffee. That person. The job. What if your car were stolen (Gasp. Bun-bun!), or you lost your stuff in a fire, or you simply left your lunch bag on the bus (true story, you know who you are!). The earthquake in Haiti can show us how we're all attached to the stuff we have - all we have to do is imagine trading places, but we're also committed that people get clean water and have medical care and are reunited with their families. When we're committed we can keep going in the face of failure because we don't have to stop and process our disappointment. We keep going.


Susan said...

SUCH an important post and a topic that I struggle to come to terms with! I called myself "aparygraha" when I took the risk of dating online last year. lol! I have recently moved in with the man that I met and now I am living this very debate! How do I commit without being overly attached, needy or altogether co-dependent? How much independence or togetherness is healthy? Since I believe that this is the love of my life (third times a charm, baby!) what will I do if he does not live up to my expectations? What expectations are healthy and reasonable in a relationship, if any? We will see....for now I am happy and I guess that is the most important thing. Right?

Jamine said...

Great situation to be in! What a chance to practice :) One of the only ways to practice non-attachment is to notice where you're good and attached. Then you get to let go inside of the relationship and enjoy it rather than having to wait for it to dissolve in some way. What a great way to practice yoga!