How to Practice Non-Attachment When Living with Families

How Can You Not Be Attached to Family and Loved Ones?

I know it seems strange at first, but the more we examine it, the more we will find that love without possessiveness or clinginess is a far greater and more powerful love. This is what true unconditional love looks like.

When we love with attachment, we love with stress and anxiety too, constantly worrying, even if it’s imperceptible. This subconscious stress is subconsciously perceived by the people we love and it can create an atmosphere of stress and tension.

With mindfulness, we will see that detached love is even more generous and caring. There is no fear or negativity that comes with this kind of love. I know in our current culture, especially Western culture which tries to hide death from the living, this kind of love can seem strange. And I don’t mean to suggest that there should be no feelings of sadness when we lose a loved one. But with mindfulness, we will see that our sadness is actually an expression of our love.

With mindfulness, we will feel all of the emotions of loss, fully and deeply, but we won’t become lost in our feelings. Instead, we will feel and think about our loved ones consciously and intentionally. We will remember that all of the pain comes from the feelings of joy we had with that person, and so in this way, we won’t get swept away by the grief. We will be able to sit with it, sit with the joyful memories as well, and be at peace through this beautiful healing process.

What Is the Principle of Non-Attachment?

Non-Attachment is a way of being that simply understands that the nature of everything in our universe is change. Everything breaks, everything decays, all relationships end, and everything we know and love will soon end as well. When we resist this truth, it leads to suffering. When we embrace this truth, we can surf the everchanging waves of time with peace and joy.

We don’t just get attached to people and things either. We get attached to memories from our past — the way things were — and to our expectations about how things should be in the future. Attachment is the single greatest cause of suffering on our planet because nothing can ever remain the same, try as we might. The harder we try to keep things the same, the harder our lives become.

The Cause of Attachment

Most of us think that there is a Self, and so we think that things can be “mine.” This is where attachment arises from. But there is no Self within the body. There is only the notion of a Self that is created in each moment. This notion of Self is constantly growing and changing. When we realize this notion of a permanent independent Self is not real, attachment fades away naturally.

If we truly examine the idea of ownership, we’ll see that it is no more than a society-created illusion. We cannot truly own anything except by society’s definitions. We can put up a gate with a lock, we can defend our property with a weapon, but if the government decides they actually own our land, there is little we can do to stop them. The ownership was just an illusion based on a set of words on papers we call laws.

Take the phrase, “It is raining.” What is the “it” in this sentence referring to? What is raining? Upon closer inspection, we see that “it” is a false notion of self. So too, “me,” “my,” and “mine,” while useful language for communicating and existing in modern society, obscure the deeper truth.

Attachment is the mental grasping and clutching. It is the futile resistance to the march of time. To break free, we must realize there is no separate “me” and there is no independent causeless phenomena to hold onto. There is only oneness.

The Key to Practicing Non-Attachment

When we realize that our body, thoughts and feelings are constantly changing, then we understand deeply this impermanent nature of reality. We are a process, not a person. We are dependent on the causes and conditions that came before us, like everything else in this world.

Something constantly changing can never hold on to anything else that is constantly changing. So even though things may look sturdy and solid, even though we cannot see growth or decay happening before our eyes, we know consciously that they are not permanent. The problem is our subconscious thinks they are.

We have to reprogram our subconscious to see impermanence. We do this through repetition and reminders. When we get a new car, we must see and accept its inevitable breakdown. In everything we enjoy, we must practice seeing its inevitable end. When we eat our favorite food, instead of getting carried away with the flavor and eating it endlessly in a useless attempt to the prolong the pleasure, we can stay mindful of the temporary nature of the flavor so that we do not become consumed by it.

We must stay vigilantly aware of our mind’s tendency to cling, and bring our awareness back to the realization that even these good moments will pass. This is the only way we can enjoy the things we love without fear of their imminent loss — by accepting this very fact that they are impermanent. Fear and acceptance cannot coexist.

The more we practice appreciation without grasping, the more we can settle into the truth that good things will keep coming and that there’s no need to cling at all. We’ll see good things come, good things go, bad things come and bad things go, and we will stay at peace through it all, trusting this natural course of the universe.

When we reach this higher awareness of impermanence, we’ll be better able to create the positive conditions for more and more blessings to appear in our life. Everything arises from the conditions that came before it, and we can always be planting positive seeds so that our future can truly bloom.

Is There a Difference Between Non-Attachment and Detachment?

This is perhaps more of a discussion about semantics and the personal meaning of words, but to me, detachment has a negative connotation with not caring, withdrawing from the things we love, and taking a passive approach to life. Non-attachment is none of these things.

With non-attachment, we can be highly engaged, deeply in love, and take a very active role in creating the life we truly want. The difference is that we won’t be consumed by the outcomes. With non-attachment, we won’t be delusional about the temporary reality we live in.

To be detached is actively avoiding love. Non-attachment is loving selflessly and generously. Detachment is not caring about what happens in your life or the life of your family. Non-Attachment is doing your best, helping others do their best, and never forgetting that all things must end.

With non-attachment, we can become more involved in people’s lives because we are under no illusion that there will not be pain or loss. Detachment is protecting ourselves from this reality by avoiding life. Non-attachment is to truly embrace the whole of life.

Is Non-Attachment Healthy?

We cannot cling to the things we love without resisting the things we dislike. This puts our body and mind in a constant state of stress. Our muscles become tense, our minds become tense, our blood vessels constrict, and our immune systems become weak because we are always ready to fight or flight.

When we learn to let go, our mental and physical health improve. When we stop holding onto our painful mental stories about the past, we no longer need to turn to unhealthy addictions for relief. When we can love people exactly how they are instead of the idea in our head about how they should be, our relationships dramatically improve.

Every aspect of our life improves when we practice non-attachment. We can work harder on our goals because we are not attached to the outcome. We can enjoy the journey when we’re not fixated on our past mistakes or on some “better” future.

We may think we’ll lose something precious if we let go. But the truth is, we will gain everything.

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How Do You Practice Non-Attachment In Dating Or After Breakup, Marriage?

It may seem counterintuitive to not be attached to a romantic partner, but nobody has ever been attracted to a needy, clingy, desperate lover. Attachment is the complete opposite of attraction, magnetism and romance.

We all want a partner who is confident. Confidence comes from realizing we have nothing to lose because we lose everything eventually anyway. Then we can be our most authentic selves and find the person who is right for us because we are not insecure or fearful of change.

Most of the time, especially in dating, we become attached to an image in our mind of the person we’re dating. We see them as what they can do for us. And we fail to see the real person.

In marriages, we can become so attached to a mental image of our spouse that we stop looking at them altogether. Attachment creates distance, blocking us from being able to truly connect with the person. We cannot become truly attached to an ever-changing person, only to an image in our mind.

So we must practice being deeply present with someone, not focusing on the future or past. We must look without labeling, listen without judging, and enjoy each moment as it comes.

Every single person in our lives is our spiritual teacher. They are the spiritual practice of presence and compassion. Especially when it’s hard. That is why they are there — to help us learn to stay mindful when attachment rears its ugly head.

Relationships ending is the hardest thing most of us will ever go through. Our older selves would always go back in time to tell our younger selves they wish they appreciated the time we had more. So don’t wait. Live your life like it will one day be over, because one day it will.

The Buddha declared in his Four Noble Truths that life is suffering. When we look closely, we see that all suffering stems from the craving and attachment to impermanent things and experiences. We are always wanting things we don’t have, or we are wishing the situations we find ourselves in would change. But, there is also a way out of the suffering, stress and dissatisfaction that plague the lives of so many in our modern civilization.

In The Way Out of Suffering, I lay out the path for how we can all free ourselves from the attachment to temporary things, situations and experiences. I show how we can enjoy without craving, love without clinging, and feel that deep centered peace which has no opposite and needs no external fleeting pleasure to sustain it.

The Miracle of Death: Award-Winning Spiritual Film

“Nothing is Ever Gone”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Dr Anju CR

    Thank you for your insights dear Todd.. Your videos, books, podcasts and newsletters has really helped me a lot in my healing .It has helped me in discovering a better version of myself…
    Keep spreading peace and love…
    Am really grateful for your service to this humanity.

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