Desires can motivate us, but the desire that leads to longing, is the birthplace of suffering. When we suffer over a desire, when we are attached to the outcome, we become like small children who have to have their way. Attachment leads to depression, anger, hopelessness, or fear.
Eastern teachers are quick to school their students in the practice of non-attachment. When we let things be the way they are without getting upset, we are practicing non-attachment. Acceptance is another word for non-attachment.
Preference is a non-attached desire. We want something to be a certain way, but if it is not what we prefer, we can still be happy. Over the years I’ve dealt with a slight scoliosis. The condition involves chiropractors, exercise, and massage. On rare occasions I have experienced debilitating pain. One day I was in my closet and my back “went out.” I could barely breathe or move. I stood slumped over and examined the pain. I went with it. I wondered if the same amount of peace and joy was available, even in this moment. I detached from the situation. Could I live the rest of my life with this level of pain? The answer was yes. I reached down to the still level and knew my life would be different if I remained in pain, but I could still lead a meaningful life. I felt at peace with the situation. Fortunately, the pain subsided and I remain relatively pain free. Naturally I prefer a pain free life, but what is, is what is. Resistance or attachment always leads to more suffering. When we get upset over physical pain, it’s the ego. When we are present with the pain, without attachment, we free up energy to deal with the situation and the pain. We don’t need to be in pain and have to deal with raging emotions at the same time. Let the emotions go.
Resignation and acceptance are not the same thing. True acceptance brings relief, while resignation brings pain and depression. Acceptance means allowing what is, to be what is, without resentment, longing, or sadness. Some people are scripted to be resigned. They believe life does not work on his or her behalf. Short term resignation is not harmful; it leads to short term suffering, but long term resignation is tragic. Long term resignation requires counseling, coaching, or therapy. Sometimes it takes another person help us see through our life defining lies.
Non-attachment is not the western way to deal with pain, but it is actually easier than the traditional ways of constantly sifting through our emotions. Non-attachment is not about denial; it is about breakthrough – breaking through emotions and going deeper into reality.
The following affirmative thoughts lead us away from attachment and toward freedom:
- I like it when things go my way, but I’m safe and okay when things don’t go my way.
- I am pleased with life and can deal with things as they come up.
- I accept the things I cannot change.
- I can have my way, but I don’t always have to have my way.
- I am not attached.
- I trust that the higher good is always working out, even if I cannot see it.
- I have preferences, but I am not attached to having everything my way.
- I am not selfish or selfless. I value myself, but I can always do without having things and still value who I am.
- I have compassion for others whose needs are greater than mine. In this moment they may need more attention and care than I, but I can always get the attention and care I need when the time is right.
- I am relaxed about feeling uptight.
- I am detached from my attachment.