Nonattachment & How I Let Go

Last week, I stumbled onto the Buddhist term “nonattachment” after a pretty common session of watching too many YouTube vlogs and feeling the need to read something. The idea got me thinking. I don’t want to talk too much about nonattachment theory but rather what my reading got me thinking about how I like to handle things.

From what I understand, the idea revolves around letting go of cravings and damaging emotions. By doing so and therefore letting things be and accepting them as they are, this will elevate your suffering.

Lama Surya Das describes it best by saying:

“For me, attachment is like holding on tightly to something that is always slipping through my fingers–it just gives me rope burn. But letting go–nonattachment—relieves the constant, painful irritation. A good example of this is not being able to fall asleep at night because you keep turning something over and over in your mind. It’s one of those times when letting go is obviously a necessary virtue, and having some kind of relaxation tool can be extraordinarily helpful.”

(read the entire article here: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Buddhism/2000/12/Letting-Go-Letting-Be.aspx#)

I’m unclear how this works with ambition and wanting to better yourself, and don’t want to write the wrong thing here by trying to set it out. However, the concept really stuck me as letting go of some emotions or frustrations is something that I have been trying to do as well as becoming smarter about my own emotions and reactions to situations.

The article referenced above suggests that there are two steps to letting go:

  1. “Becoming aware of whatever arises within the field of your experience of consciousness.”
  2. “Becoming aware of how you relate to it.”

Simply put (in my interpretation), understanding how you feel about something and what you are going to do about it.

When I get a strong emotional reaction to something, I want to be able to think about what the hell just happened. Why do I feel so angry/upset/betrayed/hurt/etc. about this? By doing so, I can drill down to the root of the problem which helps me think about what I do next and in most cases communicate the real issue so that both parties are clear on where I stand on the issue.

Some people may say that by doing this I’m over analysing my emotions but I think you need to. Emotions are instinctual reactions which tell you something about yourself and who you are deep inside. I read this fantastic blog yesterday (found here: http://tcat.tc/1a1FoeU) giving “truth” we need to know before we can know ourselves. The biggest thing I took from it was that I’m not sure you can define yourself in words but rather your feelings, reactions and behaviours define you because how you act and think defines you more than who you say you are.

Therefore, if you don’t understand why you are reacting to something, how can you really know yourself? Maybe that’s fine for other people but I would like to be self-aware.

After you understand why you have reacted to the situation in the way you did, the next step is figuring out if you need to act on your feelings. If you do, you should do what’s necessary. If you don’t need to act on it, this is where the theory of non-attachment and letting go comes in. Instead of holding onto bad feelings or cravings and only making ourselves feel worse, we should let go and move on.

I see a lot of people around me – myself included – get bogged down by things they can’t do anything about. I think in these situations people would like to let go and stop feeling bad but it’s much harder than it sounds.

There is an awry of tips for letting go including meditation. For me, letting go is a gradual process. I still cringe about things I have said and done in the past and feel insanely guilty over little things that can’t be changed.

The most effective thing I can do when trying to get over something is accepting that I can’t/don’t have to act on these feelings and therefore need to let them go. I’ll then begin reasoning with myself about how the situation wasn’t that bad as I’m making out and reminding myself that there isn’t anything I can do about it so why should I be worried about it. Like I said, it’s gradual. Eventually things will stop hurting so much or at the very least, they won’t consume my every thought.

I wanted to talk about this because I think the process of learning when to hold on or to let go of things is part of becoming an adult. It’s part of becoming self-aware about yourself (which I certainly wasn’t as a child, teenager or even student) and your emotions but also learning from your mistakes and being able to reason with yourself. I’m not all the way there yet but I’m not sure I ever will be. But at least I’ve a small clue as to why I act I act sometimes.

Of course, there are times when I act when I shouldn’t and let things go when I know I should do something but hey, I’m only young. Maybe I’ll get it right one day.

How do you let things go whether they be relationships or physical things or emotions about something that has happened? I’d love to know if you’re the same as me or have other ways of dealing with these issues. And if I’ve completely misinterpreted the nonattachment theory, I’d love to know that too! How else will I learn?

Original image found on Google image linked to gentlehatha.com

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