Non-attachment boils down to a humble admission that your thoughts and actions–especially when they’re based on worry–don’t always lead to the best results. It’s trusting that a power wiser than your own fearful mind might lead you to a better outcome.
You can then approach life without fighting it, judging it, or needing to control it. Like this enlightened master replied after being asked how he remained so calm in the middle of life’s storms,
“I don’t mind what happens.”
So, if this is non-attachment, what then is attachment? Attachment is the mother of all worries. When you’re attached, your whispered lies insist you know exactly how things should turn out. Further, you’ve made your own happiness dependent upon reaching a specific result.
How do you know if you’re overly attached to something? Just ask yourself, “How often do the words should, must, or ought go through my mind?” Attachment sounds like this:
- My daughter should stop using drugs.
- This person, (fill in the blank), must be nicer to me.
- The mayor (or president, legislator, etc.) is wrong and ought to (fill in the blank).
- I should never experience troubling situations.
- I should not be aging.
These are examples of what Fred Luskin, the director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, calls unenforceable rules. Such rules demand an outcome you believe must come true, but over which you have no control. Luskin writes in Forgive for Good that these inflexible beliefs make you feel helpless, angry, hurt, hopeless or bitter. https://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Good-Proven…/dp/006251721X
Although holding an unenforceable rule may feel good—even noble—it doesn’t mean you can make it happen. In the first example, the daughter should stop using drugs, but no matter how persuasive the mother’s arguments, she doesn’t have the power to make her daughter stop.
The mother does, however, have control over her own choices and behavior. She can seek help from a therapist or Al-Anon to learn how to let go of her worry. Then she might choose a goal for how she wants to act and feel, detach from the result, and use growth tools for her own peace of mind, regardless of her daughter’s choices.
One of my own unenforceable rules became clear as I was writing this book. When my mother passed away, I found it difficult to write and became discouraged by my lack of progress. When I honestly faced the false belief that I must complete the book by a certain date, I became willing to see it differently. Eventually, after using some of my favorite worry-busters, I turned my “rule” around to “I will finish writing the book at the perfect time.” In turn, I became kinder and more flexible with myself. You can find some of the tools I used in my other blog entries: https://gigilanger.com/worry-less-blog/
Non-attachment offers you peaceful acceptance and creative freedom. Nothing becomes a live-or-die situation because you know things are working out, with results that may far surpass your greatest hopes. You can allow life to unfold without holding on so tightly to your worries.
Gigi Langer, Ph.D. Based on her work in psychology and personal experience in therapy, recovery, and a variety of spiritual teachings, Gigi is a sought-after speaker and award-winning writer and professor. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and Education from Stanford University.
Gigi lives happily in Michigan with her husband, Peter, and her cat, Murphy. Her new book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now: Reject Negative Thinking to Find Peace, Clarity and Connection will be released February 20, 2018. Learn more at https://gigilanger.com/new-book-worry-less-now/