What the Heck Does Non-Attachment Mean, Anyway?!

January 2, 2012.

I think non-attachment is one of those terms that is thrown around a lot and has the potential to create all kinds of confusion and misinterpretation.  So I’d like to take a stab at defining it. 

The importance of defining terms has turned out to be a huge learning for me.  At some point I recognized that I’d leave a discussion feeling peaceful and confident that everybody was on the same page, only to find out later that what they heard wasn’t what I was trying to say.  So I started defining terms and asking more questions.

Sometimes defining can be simplified by starting with what something is not.  So here’s what I think non-attachment isn’t.   It isn’t ignoring, pretending myself beyond what I’m really feeling, resisting, running away from, giving up, caving in or detaching to China.  These are all ‘moving away from’ behaviors.

Non-attachment, oddly, is about engaging in ‘moving toward’ behaviors.  It is a conscious decision I make after I’ve noticed something, paid attention to what I’m feeling about it, leaned into it and ‘owned’ my feelings and reactions, and then chosen to let it go, gently, peacefully, and purposefully. 

I know I’ve practiced non-attachment when I leave an interaction or a situation with a ‘clean’ feeling.  It’s hard to describe in words but It’s a sense that I’m finished with it for the moment, while at the same time recognizing that the resistance may come back the same or in another form later.  And not worrying about it, being ok with that. 

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts and personal experiences with non-attachment.  And I’m curious whether or not this idea of a ‘clean feeling’ makes sense to you.