The first step is to understand what attachment is.
According to Dictionary.com, attachment is:
- an act of attaching or the state of being attached.
- a feeling that binds one to a person, thing, cause, ideal, or the like; devotion; regard: a fond attachment to his cousin; a profound attachment to the cause of peace.
- an emotional bond between an infant or toddler and primary caregiver, a strong bond being vital for the child’s normal behavioral and social development.
- an enduring emotional bond that develops between one adult and another in an intimate relationship: romantic attachment.
It is a binding that is mental or emotional (let’s ignore the physical here) which involves a bond, regard, and a connection with depth.
Why does this matter? Because attachment can be the cause of poor choices in life that can keep you from walking a path you might choose — or — cause you to hold onto a path that ceases to serve you.
Attachment can be applied to both tangibles and intangibles equally. It can be a cause of a lot of stress and suffering because it transcends reason and logic into a purely emotional state.
How does attachment become problematic?
My first exposure to this came in the form of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. As he instructed Luke in the ways of the Force, he explained that Luke’s attachment to his friends denied him the freedom to truly embrace the Force training he had sought in the first place.
This notion gets expanded upon a lot in the prequel movies. Anakin’s attachment to Padme and her attachment to him bring down the Republic. Their attachment puts blinders on them both — to the point that they cannot see it for what it is.
Buddhism in the real world has a lot to say about attachment. Buddhism and Hinduism both see attachment as the primary obstacle to finding serenity and fulfillment in life.
It took me a long time to understand the meaning of this. Why is attachment so problematic? While I know my comprehension is imperfect — I think I am starting to understand.
Attachment is a distraction
Whether it is a person, place, or thing — material or immaterial — attachment distracts you.
How? By taking up residence inside your psyche in such a way that you become incapable of letting go.
Why does letting go matter? Because of the impermanence of life in general.
The one absolute constant in the Universe is change. Like it or not, change happens. When you form attachments, it creates comfort. While some comfort is a good thing — the fabrics you wear, hygiene, a full belly, and the like — too much comfort makes change undesirable.
Yes, some changes are undesirable. I hate seeing how many aspects of our culture are regressing rather than progressing, for example. But they can be changed in the opposite direction — much more easily when you don’t hold onto attachments.
When you form attachments, you become less able to handle the truth of the impermanence of the Universe. Because change is constant — and everything will change — nothing is permanent.
And I mean nothing. Even stars die in time.
Attachment can create an unhealthy tether to something that can make the inevitable change painful.
Things you might attach to
I have a favorite coffee mug. It came from a restaurant I love in Sedona, AZ. It’s a deep, deep blue, and it’s rather square and unique.
I have a set of four of these — each a different color. But I have a particular attachment to the deep blue mug. It’s my favorite, and I have been drinking my morning coffee out of it for several years now.
How will I feel when it gets broken? Or lost? Or otherwise ceases to be useable? How will that feeling distract me?
You might think this is insignificant. Perhaps. But what if the loss of this mug — say due to a mistake on my part — starts a negative emotional spiral? I can’t even protect my favorite mug — what else will I screw up today? That, in turn, could alter my intention for that day, which could mean that I lose out on something that could have made my life better or miss out on an opportunity because of my distraction.
Is that far-fetched? No, because similar things have happened before.
That’s attachment to a thing. What about a person? When you lose that person — whether due to a change in you or them, a shift in emotion, death, or what-have-you — will it destroy you emotionally?
One note of caution — in no way am I saying you should not have people and things in your life you get used to and develop affections for. What I am saying is that if you base your everything on them and become too attached, their loss could be more devastating than it needs to be.
You can be emotional without becoming attached.
FYI — in recognition of my attachment to the coffee mug, I have started to rotate which of the four I use.
Bonds and connection without attachment
Bonding and connecting with people and things are not bad. We need connection because we are social creatures — and we form connections to things because we have likes and dislikes.
Connection differs from attachment in that you are more able to let go and detach from the thing. Whether it’s material or immaterial, the ability to let go allows you to handle and work with change more easily.
To some, this idea is cold and impersonal. But it’s not — because when you approach everything with an eye to connection without attachment you are better able to roll with the punches. When change happens — and it always does — lack of attachment helps you to either go with it or take a stand to alter, influence, or otherwise direct/redirect the change.
Attachment is too much feeling
Finally, when it comes to conscious reality creation and mindfulness, you need a balance of thought, feeling, and action. Attachment is an overabundance of feeling. The strength of your attachment can lessen how conscious you are of not just the world around you, but more concerning of yourself.
Mindfulness is awareness of your psyche. When you become attached and feel too deeply it can cause you to be less aware of yourself. That means change becomes particularly difficult to handle because your focus on feeling lessens your ability to think and act.
How do you know you have formed an attachment? If you have something in your life that you “can’t stand to lose.” Tangible or intangible, when you recognize this you can see how the depth of your connection may not be as healthy as you would desire for it to be.
Connection is great. Attachment of holding on too tightly.
Understanding the pitfalls of attachment is a challenge — but will help you better relate to change. To work on detachment, start small — like what I have done with my favorite coffee mug.
What can you detach from today?
You are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you and I matter as do the connections and bonds we form.
Originally published at http://titaniumdon.com on May 13, 2020.