Letting Go of Attachment: From A to Zen By Lori Deschene

“Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities.” ~Dalai Lama

If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we want to feel happy; and on the other side of that coin, we want to avoid hurting. Yet we consistently put ourselves in situations that set us up for pain.

We pin our happiness to people, circumstances, and things and hold onto them for dear life. We stress about the possibility of losing them when something seems amiss. Then we melt into grief when something changes—a lay off, a breakup, or a transfer.

We attach to feelings as if they define us, and ironically, not just positive ones. If you’ve wallowed in regret or disappointment for years, it can seem safe and even comforting to suffer.

In trying to hold on to what’s familiar, we limit our ability to experience joy in the present. A moment can’t possibly radiate fully when you’re suffocating it in fear.

When you stop trying to grasp, own, and control the world around you, you give it the freedom to fulfill you without the power to destroy you. That’s why letting go is so important— letting go is letting happiness in.

It’s no simple undertaking to let go of attachment—not a one-time decision, like pulling off a band-aid. Instead, it’s a day-to-day, moment-to-moment commitment that involves changing the way you experience and interact with everything you instinctively want to grasp.

The best approach is to start simple, at the beginning, and work your way to Zen.

Experiencing Without Attachment

Accept the moment for what it is.

Don’t try to turn it into yesterday; that moment’s gone. Don’t plot about how you can make the moment last forever. Just seep into the moment and enjoy it, because it will eventually pass. Nothing is permanent. Fighting that reality will only cause you pain.

Believe now is enough.

It’s true—tomorrow may not look the same as today, no matter how much you try to control it. A relationship might end. You might have to move. You’ll deal with those moments when they come. All you need right now is to appreciate and enjoy what you have. It’s enough.
Call yourself out.

Learn what it looks like to grasp at people, things, or circumstances so you can redirect your thoughts when they veer toward attachment—when you dwell on keeping, controlling, manipulating, or losing something instead of simply experiencing it.

Define yourself in fluid terms
.

We are all constantly evolving and growing. Define yourself in terms that can withstand change. Defining yourself by possessions, roles, and relationships breeds attachment, because loss entails losing not just what you have, but also who you are.

Enjoy now fully.

No matter how much time you have in an experience or with someone you love, it will never feel like enough. So don’t think about it in terms of quantity; aim for quality instead. Attach to the idea of living well from moment to moment. That’s an attachment that can do you no harm.

Letting Go of Attachment to People

Friend yourself.

It will be harder to let people go when necessary if you depend on them for your sense of worth. Believe you’re worthy whether someone else tells you or not. This way, you relate to people, not just how they make you feel about yourself.

Go it alone sometimes.

Take time to foster your own interests, ones that nothing and no one can take away. Don’t let them hinge on anyone or anything other than your values and passion.

Hold lightly.

This one isn’t just about releasing attachments; it’s also about maintaining healthy relationships. Contrary to romantic notions, you are not someone’s other half. You’re separate and whole. You can still hold someone to close to your heart; just remember, if you squeeze too tightly, you’ll both be suffocated.

Interact with lots of people.

If you limit yourself to one or two relationships, they will seem like your lifelines. Everyone needs people, and there are billions on the planet. Stay open to new connections. Accept the possibility your future involves a lot of love whether you cling to a select few people or not.

Justify less.

I can’t let him go—I’ll be miserable without him. I’d die if I lost her—she’s all that I have. These thoughts reinforce beliefs that are not fact, even if they feel like it. The only way to let go and feel less pain is to believe you’re strong enough to carry on if and when things change.

Letting Go of Attachment to the Past

Know you can’t change the past.

Even if you think about over and over again. Even if you punish yourself. Even if you refuse to accept it. It’s done. The only way to relieve your pain about what happened is to give yourself relief. No one and nothing else can create peace in your head for you.

Love instead of fearing.

When you hold onto the past, it often has to do with fear—fear you messed up your chance at happiness, or fear you’ll never know such happiness again. Focus on what you love and you’ll create happiness instead of worrying about it.

Make now count.

Instead of thinking of what you did or didn’t do, the type of person you were or weren’t, do something worthwhile now. Be someone worthwhile now. Take a class. Join a group. Help someone who needs it. Make today so full and meaningful there’s no room to dwell on yesterday.

Narrate calmly.

How we experience the world is largely a result of how we internalize it. Instead of telling yourself dramatic stories about the past—how hurt you were or how hard it was—challenge your emotions and focus on lessons learned. That’s all you really need from yesterday.
Open your mind.

We often cling to things, situations, or people because we’re comfortable with them. We know how they’ll make us feel, whether it’s happy or safe. Consider that new things, situations, and people may affect you the same. The only way to find out is to let go of what’s come and gone.
Letting Go of Attachment to Outcomes

Practice letting things be.

That doesn’t mean you can’t actively work to create a different tomorrow. It just means you make peace with the moment as it is, without worrying that something’s wrong with you or your life, and then operate from a place of acceptance.
Question your attachment.

If you’re attached to a specific outcome—a dream job or the perfect relationship—you may be indulging an illusion about some day when everything will be lined up for happiness. No moment will ever be worthier of your joy than now because that’s all there ever is.

Release the need to know.

Life entails uncertainty, no matter how strong your intention. Obsessing about tomorrow wastes your life because there will always be a tomorrow on the horizon. There are no guarantees about how it will play out. Just know it hinges on how well you live today.

Serve your purpose now.

You don’t need to have x-amount of money in the bank to live a meaningful life right now. Figure out what matters to you, and fill pockets of time indulging it. Audition for community theater. Volunteer with animals. Whatever you love, do it. Don’t wait—do it now.

Teach others.

It’s human nature to hope for things in the future. Even the most enlightened people fall into the habit from time to time. Remind yourself to stay open to possibilities by sharing the idea with other people. Blog about it. Talk about it. Tweet about it. Opening up helps keep you open.

Letting Go of Attachment to Feelings

Understand that pain is unavoidable.

No matter how well you do everything on this list, or on your own short list for peace, you will lose things that matter and feel some level of pain. But it doesn’t have to be as bad as you think. As the saying goes, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Vocalize your feelings.

Feel them, acknowledge them, express them, and then let them naturally transform. Even if you want to dwell in anger, sadness, or frustration—especially if you feel like dwelling—save yourself the pain and commit to working through them.

Write it down.

Then toss it out. You won’t always have the opportunity to express your feelings to the people who inspired them. That doesn’t mean you need to swallow them. Write in a journal. Write a letter and burn it. Anything that helps you let go.

Xie Xie.

t means thank you in Chinese. Fully embrace your happy moments—love with abandon; be so passionate it’s contagious. If a darker moment follows, remember: It will teach you something, and soon enough you’ll be in another happy moment to appreciate. Everything is cyclical.

Yield to peace.

The ultimate desire is to feel happy and peaceful. Even if you think you want to stay angry, what you really want is to be at peace with what happened or will happen. It takes a conscious choice. Make it.

Zen your now.

Experience, appreciate, enjoy, and let go to welcome another experience.

It won’t always be easy. Sometimes you’ll feel compelled to attach yourself physically and mentally to people and ideas—as if it gives you some sense of control or security. You may even strongly believe you’ll be happy if you struggle to hold onto what you have. That’s okay. It’s human nature.

Just know you have the power to choose from moment to moment how you experience things you enjoy: with a sense of ownership, anxiety, and fear, or with a sense of freedom, peace, and love.

The most important question: What do you choose right now?


About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

Waking Up – Steve Taylor Ph.D.

Are spiritual experiences becoming more common?

What are spiritual experiences? I don’t think of them in religious terms. I see them as moments in which our awareness becomes more intense and more expansive than normal, so that the world around us becomes more real and alive, and we feel a strong sense of connection to nature and other human beings. We might feel a sense of joy or inner stillness, and feel that somehow the world around us is “in harmony” or has a meaning that we find difficult to express.

If a person from a religious background has such an experience, they may well interpret it in religious terms. They might see it as a gift from God, and believe that the aliveness and harmony they perceive is a glimpse of the divine, or of heaven. But if you’re not religious, there’s no reason to think in these terms. The experience is just a psychological one. It suggests that our normal vision of the world is limited and in some ways even aberrational. In awakening experiences, there is a strong sense of ‘seeing more,’ of expanding beyond limits and perceiving a more authentic reality.

My research shows that awakening experiences are connected to certain activities and situations. They are associated with contact with nature, spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer, sporting activities (such as running and swimming), and sex. They are also strongly associated with states of intense psychological turmoil. That is, paradoxically, they often occur in the midst of stress and depression, or in relation to traumatic life events such as illness, divorce or bereavement.

However, one of the most interesting things about these experiences is that they are apparently becoming more common. In a 1962 Gallup poll, just 22 percent of Americans reported that they had “ever had a religious or mystical experience.” In 1994, 33 percent of people answered yes to the same question, while by 2009, the figure had risen to 49 percent. Research by the Pew Research Center in the U.S. has shown a similar trend. In 2007, 52 percent of Americans reported that they regularly felt a “deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being.” In 2014, the figure stood at 59 percent. In 2007, 39 percent of Americans said that the regularly felt a “deep sense of wonder about the universe”—a figure which had increased to 46 percent in 2014. Perhaps significantly, these increases coincided closely with a decrease in interest in organized religion.

In the U.K., the surveys of the Spiritual Experience Research Centre have had similar findings. In a 1969 survey, the question “Have you ever experienced a presence or power, whether you call it God or not, which is different from your everyday self?” was answered affirmatively by 29 percent of people. In 1978, the figure had risen to 36 percent, and then to 48 percent in 1987. In 2000, there was a further steep rise to 75 percent—a 27 percent increase in 13 years (which was, coincidentally or not, exactly the same figure by which church attendance declined over the same period). (1)

A Collective Movement?

Why should spiritual experiences be more common now than they were a few decades ago? It could simply be that people are simply getting better at recognizing them, or are more open about discussing them. Now that there is more general awareness of spirituality in our culture, and concepts such as “spiritual peace and well-being” are a more common part of discourse, it could simply be that more people are describing their experiences in this way, when they might have described them in other terms in earlier decades.

Or perhaps it’s right to take the research at its face value. Perhaps spiritual experiences actually are becoming more common. This is the approach I take in my new book The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening. I suggest that spiritual experiences are glimpses of a new state of being that is slowly becoming more normal to human beings. This is a higher-functioning state that I call “wakefulness,” in which a person feels an enhanced sense of well-being, clarity, and connection. They have a more intense awareness of the world around them, a greater sense of appreciation of nature, a broad global outlook, and an all-embracing sense of empathy with the whole human race. In many ways, it is a permanent, ongoing variant of the ‘awakening experience.’

I have found many examples of people who shift into this higher-functioning state in the midst of intense psychological turmoil – for example, bereavement, serious illness, or alcoholism—I describe some of these examples in The Leap. This shift is quite common, and can be seen as a variation of “post-traumatic growth”—I sometimes refer to it as “post-traumatic transformation.” There are also hundreds of millions of people around the world who are gradually cultivating wakefulness by following spiritual practices such as meditation and service, or spiritual paths such as Buddhism, Yoga, or the Kabbalah. A constantly increasing interest in self-development, spiritual practices, and traditions is one of the most significant cultural trends of our time.

It seems to me that there is a collective moment towards awakening, which is manifesting itself in a variety of ways—one of which may be the increasing frequency of spiritual experiences.

(1) I am grateful to my fellow author Jules Evans for bringing my attention to this research.

Steve Taylor PhD is a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, UK. He is the author of The Leap: The Psychology of Spiritual Awakening.
Source: Psychology Today

Leonard Jacobson – Keys To Awakening

The most important key to awakening is to learn the art of being present. It is only from Presence that you can be unconditionally loving and accepting of yourself.

This includes all those things you would like to change about yourself. Jealousy, possessiveness, control, judgment, haplessness, inadequacy, blame, guilt, uncertainty, unworthiness, arrogance, expectation, resentment, anger, sadness, frustration, just to name a few. To want to change any of these qualities in you is a subtle rejection of them, which is not unconditional acceptance. The key is to identify, own, acknowledge and confess all of these qualities as they arise within you. Hide absolutely nothing from yourself. Own and acknowledge all of these things with love, acceptance and compassion. The more you own and accept whatever arises without judgment, the more you will relax and be released out of the past into deeper and deeper levels of Presence.

The second key to awakening is to come into right relationship with your feelings. This is only possible as you become present. There are many emotions from the past, which you repressed, for good reasons then. But now they want to be released, so it is necessary to find an opportunity to feel and express repressed emotions like anger, hurt, pain and sadness. Just be present with the feelings whenever they arise within you. Allow the authentic expression, but do not identify with the story woven into the feelings. The feelings are from the past, which you are projecting into the present. Do not try to get rid of these feelings. That would be a judgment of them. Simply allow them to complete their journey through you. Once released, they will be gone forever. It is important to take full responsibility for your emotional reactions. No one can make you angry unless you have anger repressed within you from your past. No one can hurt you unless you have hurt repressed within you from your past.

As these repressed emotions are liberated from you, you will begin to feel a level of love, peace and freedom that you did not know was possible.

The third key to awakening is to confess. This has nothing to do with the Catholic idea of confession. You have not committed any sin, which needs to be confessed in order for you to be absolved. If you confess these qualities to someone who is absolutely non-judgmental, and who is fully present with you, it will help you to own the quality of which you are confessing. In your confession, you are saying, “This is me. This is who I have become. I am possessive and controlling.” Or “I am blaming.” Or “I always get angry when I don’t get my own way.” Or “I will not allow myself to get too close to people because I am afraid I might be rejected.” By confessing and owning it with love, acceptance and compassion, it is released. And you are freed to the level of Presence where none of these qualities exist. They cannot exist because they are not a part of the true nature of Being. They exist only at the level of mind. If you cannot find someone who is present enough to receive your confession then confess to a tree or a flower, or God who exists at the very center of your Being.

The fourth key is to come into right relationship with the ego. The ego is not the enemy. It is your friend and protector in a painful world where no one is truly present. Once you know the ego’s true role in your life, you will come to appreciate it. You will befriend it, and gradually the ego will relax and it will allow you to be more present. And you become established in Presence, the ego will surrender and its role in your life will be transformed.

The fifth key is to bring conscious awareness to all the ways that you lose yourself in others. If you look to others for love, acceptance, or approval, you are losing yourself in them. If you fear judgment or rejection from others, then you are losing yourself and you are giving away your power and your freedom. To awaken is to come back to yourself, and release yourself from entanglement in others.

The fifth key to awakening is to accept full responsibility for yourself. This will release you form the world of expectation, resentment, blame and guilt. It will lead you into total freedom.

The sixth key to awakening is to let go. Dance. Celebrate. Lose control.

Excerpt from Words From Silence by Leonard Jacobson (ps. 128-131)

About Leonard:
Leonard Jacobson is an awakened spiritual teacher, mystic and author, who is deeply committed to helping others break through to the joyous experience of living in the NOW. For more than 35 years, Leonard has been teaching people how to become fundamentally present and arise in mastery of the mind and ego. Find more of Leonard’s work Here.
Source: AWAKEN

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