By Shivi Verma
Only when you are settled in non-attachment can you actually begin to enjoy this world, says Shivi Verma
For the longest time I couldn’t make sense of the world as I saw it.
If I sided with the world and its largely businesslike relationships I often found myself compromising on values which constituted my being. And if I adhered to my inner self I found myself cornered and neglected almost everywhere I went. For me my existence in this world was a confounding puzzle. I was destined to be a loser.
Gradually over the years I observed that I was fundamentally incapable of playing to the gallery for personal gains. I realized that it was vital for me to lead an existence which was in consonance with my higher self. There was also a daredevil in me which threw all care to the winds if sincere efforts at establishing genuine relationships were not respected. No wonder most of my relationships ended after a certain point. This streak, and my desire to lead an integrated life, finally paved way for spirituality.
The anchor which was unavailable outside, no matter how much I tried to conform to the ways of the world, was provided by God’s silent whispers within my soul. And as I shifted my priorities from gaining worldly prestige, respect, and approval to leading a life which was in sync with my conscience, I gradually moved into the realm of non-attachment. I learnt to coexist peacefully with the world without being emotionally dependent on anyone. And it was thrilling because it led to liberation, joy and happiness, independent of worldly parameters. The universe supported me in mystical ways as I shed layers of needs, wants and fears that arose from ego, enslaving me to the world and its benchmarks.
The final let-go
But the final shedding of attachments happened when my three-year-old marriage ended. It was the culmination of all my desire for wealth, companionship, status, and social approval. As I walked out of it, I saw everything that I had clutched dearly, go up in flames and burn down to ashes. A big part of me died permanently that day…never to be reclaimed again. I had unfastened the last knot of attachment that had been keeping me from leading a life which was congruent with my conscience. Now I was alone… leading a mindful existence, from moment to moment in intense awareness, because I had no one to fall back upon. And not surprisingly the universe rallied on my side…since I was siding with it at the cost of things which the world considered precious. Everything I needed was made available to me from unexpected quarters. The mind became restful and causeless happiness became my natural state. I began to depend less and less on memory since I loved the lightness in my head. Unknown people began responding to me with love and kindness. Gradually, I realized that there was nothing to be upset or resentful about, since life was a healthy mix of highs and lows. And only those could enjoy it perfectly who knew how to journey along its crests and troughs. As witness consciousness arose, I realized that life was an exciting journey whose every moment was a wonderful destination. As the last vestiges of earthly attachments fell away I felt a clear unhinging of the ego from my inner being. It was there but only as an experiencing tool, not as the demanding monster it used to be. Now it was more important whether I was acting from love than if the other person reciprocated or not. Now everyone was family, and the whole world was home. Love and help, all was available on the condition that I would never think of people in terms of gain and profit in the slightest measure. This state gave me the advantage of doing things for the purpose of enjoyment without being attached to the outcome. This is the essence of non-attachment.
Happily, this state is accessible to everybody if people stopped resisting change, fearing public opinion, and listened more to the voice of conscience than arguments of desires and ego. Sadly, letting go is considered to be on par with becoming lonely or ending up a loser, which explains why people prefer pain to liberation from old beliefs or false status.
Disadvantages of attachments
People hinge their identity on the things and concepts they consider precious and are attached to. However, all attachment ends in pain. Attachment to wealth leads to poverty of either money or relationships. Attachment to people leads to loneliness, rejection, or betrayal. Attachment to possessions results in disappointment and sense of loss. Attachment to beliefs causes conflict. All suffering in this world arises from our identification to things, ideas and people. I have often observed that people get attached to self-pity too, by taking vicarious joy in their identity of being a battered soul.
Says Rajani Awasthi, a housewife from Bhilai who came down with a heart attack after her two children flew the nest. “I miss them terribly. Not a moment goes when I do not think of the time when their lives revolved around me. I do not know how to fill my time without them.”
Though her husband takes very good care of her, she is unwilling to let go of her longing for what was.
Attachments give rise to pain because:
We resist giving up attachments because we do not know how to define ourselves in their absence. The idea of non-attachment can generate an identity crisis which can be frightening.
The general argument is that in the absence of attachment to anything, life becomes dull and people become stoic, and unfeeling. However, masters have realised that the state of non-attachment is full of bliss and freedom. Says the Buddha, “Those… who find delight in freedom from attachment in the renunciation of clinging, free from the inflow of thoughts, they are like shining lights, having reached final liberation in the world.”
Benefits of non attachment
Says Sandra Pawula, writer of the article, The true Meaning of Non-Attachment and How it Sets You Free, in her blog Always Well Within.
“Non-attachment actually brings about the most profound sense of care, compassion, and freedom you could ever imagine. Non-attachment doesn’t mean being cold as a stone. Emotions don’t cease to exist as you learn to let go. You just relate to them differently because you understand their ephemeral nature. And that means there’s a lot less to get riled up about. For example, even great spiritual teachers cry, smile, laugh, play.”
Non-attached people do everything that normal people do, except that they do not cling to any experience or emotion knowing their transient nature. Non-attachment liberates you as well as those living with you.
Says Sagarika Mehta, a resident of Seattle. “My sense of ownership of my children often made me control them and bend to my wishes. I used to get badly upset if they did not do my bidding or refused to imbibe a value I was trying so hard to impart to them. I was also filled with the fear of their going haywire on growing up.”
She adds, “When I discussed this matter with my mother, she said, ‘You can only do your best. Your children are free entities. They only happen to come into this world through you. Thank them for the joys they bring to you and guide them. Know that they belong to God, have their own trajectory to follow and many past-life sanskaras affecting their present condition. Do not be so deeply attached to them.”
She reflects, “Although it pained me to hear that I was only a medium, and that I did not own my kids, reflecting upon this gave me a sense of freedom and relief. I realised that I was simply a caregiver. The actual owner and protector was God. Instantly I felt that I was looking at life from a high vantage point. This realisation also brought me in touch with my own self. If I was not a mother…then who was I?”
Sagarika’s pursuit of self-discovery accellerated after that. She devotes much of her time to spiritual pursuits and is learning to sing, write and do what would help in knowing herself better.
Men who are attached to their work profiles suffer a deep identity crises when they are superannuated
or laid off suddenly. Says Subodh Chandra Verma, a former professor of physics from Gorakhpur, “I am often surprised when I see men going through a meltdown after retirement. All of us know from the time we join work that a day will come when we will retire. I was always prepared for it. In fact this awareness itself gave me a sense of detachment from the identity of being a professor even though I was passionate about teaching.”
True to his words Subodh has cultivated many hobbies that keep him entertained as well as engaged, one of which is travelling. Like a true observer he takes in unpleasant and pleasant experiences with equal equanimity.
Sandra Pawula gives a list of the benefits of non-attachment and I couldn’t agree more.
And from here starts the road to liberation as you pick and choose your responses to life’s situations without being a slave to your impulses. Non-attachment empowers you to witness life. Non-attachment gives you the freedom to enjoy life to the hilt.
How to achieve non-attachment
Sincere seekers may be fortunate enough to receive this wisdom from an enlightened master. But interestingly the design of human life is such as to detach you from all that you are possessive about. Unless this state of non-attachment is fully understood or accessed by an individual, true happiness keeps eluding her lifetime after lifetime. A person keeps chasing one mirage after another in the hope of satiation with no fulfilment ever. Although non-attachment is an organic process, for an aware person it depends on his readiness to experience it in the now. It can happen in a flash if you realise the futility of seeking God outside of yourself.
My own journey in this realm was facilitated by a master who had advised me to stop clinging to God like a bulldog. I was scandalized. God was the only thing which gave my life a sense of meaning and purpose. Who was I if not a devotee?
He kept reiterating that I should learn to drop attachments to even those ideals I held very dear to my heart. I was foxed…but from then on an awareness helped me to let go if someone or something wanted to leave. It helped me to be objective at the peak of my adulation for somebody, which I was temperamentally very prone to. Yet I was unwilling to give up on God. Eventually when God as mentally perceived by me did not appear for a painfully long time, I tired of the quest. I gave up. There was nowhere to go and nothing to find. Initially it was disheartening, but gradually I realised that this was what life was all about. I realised that every moment was a godly moment. It was my belief that was keeping me from knowing Him as He was. That I was being carried by the same force I was in search of. That there was nothing to want or desire because everything I needed or wanted was already there. I began to flow with the flow. I dropped resistance, and later on resistance to even resistance. I know I am fortified by the universe from within and without.
Says Osho, “By turning inwards one attains non-attachment. And turning in is possible only if you become a witness – a watcher on the hill. Begin witnessing from any point of life and you will reach your innermost depth. And the moment you arrive at your centre, you are non-attached like a lotus in water which lives in water and remains untouched by it.”
Swami Kriyananda suggests a useful technique, “Visualize a fire at the point between the eyebrows and offer into the flames everything in your life. Especially at night, before sleep, it is good to give God all your possessions, your emotions, your likes and dislikes, and, in fact your very life. Offer back everything and then go to sleep in a state of inner freedom.
It is very important to cast into that fire all those things you are reluctant to give up; money, relationships, job, children. These are the attachments that have the biggest grip on you. When you are experiencing a state of worry or anxiety it is helpful also to practice this visualisation as you wake up in the morning. That way you can start the day with a clean slate.”
Non-attachment frees you to be in charge of your mind and emotions instead of being bossed around by them. And with this freedom, you can taste the distinct flavour of every experience with no need to squeeze it tightly to your chest. Isn’t this reason enough to give non-attachment a chance in your life?
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