Non-Attachment for Dummies

non attachment buddhism

This article is about the concept of non-attachment (in the tongue-in-cheek spirit of the “Dummies Books” series).    The human condition allows us to experience an entire galaxy of emotions.  Those emotions can be either good or bad.  Our positive attachments (those that make us feel happy), put us aboard The Good Ship Lollipop.  Our negative attachments put us in a state of anxiety, resentment, anger, depression, etc.  In other words, a state of suffering.

Simply put, an attachment is a feeling that binds us to a person, thing, cause, or ideal.  We are bound by our own personal response in association with people, places, events, and so on.  Thus, being aware of our negative attachments and practicing non-attachment can help us to avoid or overcome the damaging effects of loss, betrayal, and tragedy.

Becoming Aware is the First Step to Freedom

Our attachments are ego-based.  They are what keep us awake at night with our mind racing.  They are the essence of our anxiety and worry.  They make us ambitious, driven, and motivated.  They make us happy…or angry.  They define how we see ourselves as individuals.  They color our every perception.  When we are attached, we can be generous or selfish.  Kind or vindictive.  They help us soar, or take us to the depths of despair.

Attachments prevent us from realizing our full potential.  They thwart us from being in the flow.  We pursue relationships that serve our self-interests.  It’s much like being in prison.  Once we become aware of our attachments, we can learn to start letting go.

Let Go of Your Toxic Relationships

A toxic relationship comes in many forms.  Ultimately, it’s any relationship that hampers your growth by making you feel down about yourself or life in general.  Sometimes it’s hard to see a toxic relationship when you’re in the middle of it.  Here are some clues:

  1. The other person says derogatory things about you.  This can be anything from, “You’re too sensitive” to “You always…(insert label).
  2. They depend on your shoulder and open ear, but when you attempt to share something about yourself, it’s blown off.
  3. You’re simply uncomfortable around that person.  You can’t express or be yourself around them.  You feel suffocated.
  4. They constantly complain.

These are just a few descriptors.  However, if a certain person drains your energy and sense of self, you need to cut the cord.  Cold turkey isn’t the way to go.  You need to have a heart-to-heart with this person, describing why you need to leave the relationship.  It will be hard, but the long-term benefit will be for your higher good.

Let Go of the Fear of Loss

Many times, we fear the loss of things that wouldn’t, in reality, make a difference in our lives.  In fact, sometimes, the absence of those things would be to our benefit.  A job you don’t like; a person who you care for, but it’s just not working out; possessions; certain beliefs.  On the flip-side, if things are not going the way you want, you have the ability to change them.  It’s all about being proactive and changing the things that are preventing your growth.

Be Your Own Best Friend

The way you feel about yourself should come from YOU, not anyone else.  In essence, you don’t need anyone’s acceptance or confirmation.  This is oftentimes one of the hardest attachments to let go of.  Especially if you felt unloved as a child, or were betrayed by someone who you love(d).  The reason this one is hard to let go of is because these scenarios basically leave us feeling rejected, as though somehow we weren’t good enough.  Hence, you keep yourself in a damaging cycle of constantly trying to win that person’s approval.  Decide right now that you don’t need their validation.  Really, who are they, anyway?  Take yourself out of the picture and realize that there are many people who would welcome your friendship.  After all, you’re awesome.

Stop Living In the Past and/or Future

The past is gone.  You can’t change it.  Why dwell on something over which you have no control?  If you feel you’ve wronged someone, make an effort to right that wrong.  But, that’s all you can do.  It’s up to the other person to make a decision.  However, you will know you’ve tried to rectify the situation.  As far as everything else, get over it.

While it’s smart to strive for being a better person and living a better life, don’t spend so much time in the future that you forget to live today.  Tomorrow might not come.  Right now, you have somewhere to live, you probably have food (even if not what you’d prefer), you have access to the internet (that’s why you’re reading this), you have clothes.  What more do you really need?  Appreciate the now.  Live in the moment.

Obsessing about the past and the future ensures you will miss out on today.  Remember, how you live now (today) will influence tomorrow’s results.

“What day is it?”
“It’s today”, squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day”, said Pooh.  ~ A. A. Milne


  1. jenniferhelps

    You keep coming out with brilliant writing! Sounds good to me!

    1. Kimberly Raya

      Thanks, Jennifer! This stuff is applicable to me, too, so it comes a bit easily 🙂

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