Loosening Attachments

Worry comes from fear. Fear is good when danger is imminent. It makes us protect ourselves. But most of us worry too much. We worry that things will happen that will give us stress. We will have to adjust to new circumstances, and we are just not sure we are up to that, or we are feeling attached to the way things are now. The way things are now may not be that great, but we’d hate to have to deal with change. Some of us think, “My house is too small, but I’d hate to be without it. My relationship doesn’t work that well, but I’d hate to be alone. My job is horrible, but what would I do if I didn’t have it?”

To loosen our attachments requires a leap of faith. We need to have the confidence that we will be okay without that to which we are attached. Jesus and Buddha both taught this lesson. (Here is a rule of thumb: If Jesus and Buddha both taught something, it’s worth paying attention to no matter who you are). Jesus told his followers not to worry about food and clothes. The birds don’t worry about storing up food, but they are taken care of. Flowers don’t worry about clothes and yet they are beautiful (Luke: 22-28). Buddhist monks have for millennia followed Buddha’s example of owning nothing but simple clothing and a bowl with which to accept food given in kindness. How gutsy is that, to put oneself in the position of having nearly nothing? To do that you need to trust that you will have what you need and confidence that you don’t need much.

The notion of impermanence fits in with staying loose too. Giving up our attachments is easier, in fact only makes sense, when we understand the truth of impermanence. Nothing lasts forever. This too, whatever it is, shall pass. I can cling to my things, my relationships, my feeling states, and as hard as I cling I cannot keep them the same or keep them forever. Trying to hold on to the status quo only creates suffering.

Staying loose in a way that reduces suffering requires ethics. If we just let go of our desires, we may fall into an apathetic vagrancy out of which nothing good comes. Becoming non-attached to the causes of suffering and desirous of the relief of suffering in others, we open the possibility of a good and beautiful life.

With these things in mind, we might affirm the following:

Things will change. I can adapt.
What I have, I may lose. If that happens, I will be OK.
I have enough. I will have enough. If I seek, I shall find.
I can’t have everything that I prefer and not everyone wants what I want.
Therefore I loosen my grip on my desires.
I stay loose.
I seek the good.
I strive to think right.
I attune myself toward the ways of nature.
I orient myself toward dealing in reality.
I do not rigidly attach myself to my conceptions of what reality is or could be.
Instead, I live in the moment
I am willing to let go of the causes of suffering.
I work toward conditions that reduce suffering.


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© 2005 Tom Barrett