A reader asked me to write a post about how to be free from attachment, particularly to other people, so here is something:
Who Is Attached?
We can get to the very root of it fairly easily. If someone says “I wish to be free from attachment” – then there are two elements to look at: “I” and “attachment”.
Let’s look at “I”. Who is attached, who feels attached? Ask yourself this question. Who is this attachment for? If you get an answer, it would be for “me” – so what is “me”, is it real, is it merely a concept – what is it? Find out.
For attachment to exist, there must surely be two objects that are attached to eachother. The first object that arises is the thought of “I” or “me”, and this object or concept, becomes attached to other objects, such as other people, other thoughts, etc.
So to look at the original “I”, the personal sense of self, is all that need be done. The “I-thought”, the individual, separate sense of self, is the cause of all of the misery we seem to experience in daily life. Without clinging to or believing in or protecting this “I-thought”, who is there to be attached to anything?
If it is seen that the individual sense of self is a creation of thought, and that it arises in a greater, mysterious, unknowable awareness, then all of the things such as attachment begin to drop away. The “I-thought” requires attachments, since it needs other things to support itself. When the individual “I” is upheld, maintained and believed in, attachment is quite inevitable as an experience.
Ready To Be Free?
In this moment you can be unattached. Just see how it feels to not be attached to anything, even to the mind that claims “I can not detach”. Leave everything as it is, just to see how it feels.
If you really wish to be unattached, you could be. It is like letting go of something you are holding. It can be let go of. But attachment has become such a habit that it seems difficult to let go.
What you are is already unattached, free, but the personal mind appears to somehow conceal this, or convince you that you are attached and need to be unnattached.
The attachment can provides a sense of security, safety or identity to the mind, and so secretly it still wishes to be attached. If attachment to some person or object is there to the extent that it causes disturbance, then obviously something sees it as valuable. Some energy inside believes attachment has a valuable purpose. It helps to see clearly that the attachment is of no value, is quite futile and unhelpful. If this is seen, you need not try to let go, it will happen by itself. In the same way that if you were carrying a bag for miles, thinking it was full of food and water, and then after looking inside you see it was full of rocks, you could easily put down the bag and leave it alone. But if you had not looked into the nature of the bag and its contents, you would not put it down, it would feel too important, too valuable, too useful.
There is no need to argue with or resist attachment. To see that it is merely a suffering-generator, some strange automatic behaviour that enjoys creating pain, is enough to withdraw your belief in it.
Attachment To The Other
If you feel you are attached to another person, this will decrease in the proportion that the ego thins out. The individual “I” creates concepts about other people, ideas of others, and so creates an inner-drama world of “me and my relationships”, which covers up the simple reality of another being, which is not actually “another” at all. You may notice that rather than the attachment being to someone else, it is merely to the idea that the mind has created about someone else. If you are empty of thoughts, not thinking, does anyone else exist? Other bodies may be seen, but is their existence as a separate "person" actually real?
The heavy sense of “otherness” that we experience, the personalities we assign to other bodies, is a construction of the mind. Investigate this for yourself, don’t take my word for it, and neither instantly dismiss, take a look inside – who is really attached to what? Is the other person merely an idea about someone rather than the reality itself?
The Simple Way
This all may seem a bit deep, so another easy thing that can be done, or rather dropped, is your arguments with feeling attached. We can be programmed to notice attachments within the mind, and then label them as bad or undesirable, and so a conflict arises, which makes the attachments seem even stronger and more menacing. Notice everything that arises, but withdraw your judgements or protests. Leave the tendencies alone. If you stop expecting yourself to not feel attached, and instead allow the experience to be as it is, then gradually the heavy, clingy stuff sorts itself out.
Nothing you can perceive is what you are, so the attachments are not you or yours either, they are just mind habits. You are not the mind. Let the mind be as it is, leave it alone, then as it loses its grip, you are aware of yourself as the emptiness in which the mind plays.
Feel yourself as the simple sense of beingness, presence or existence, that is here and now. Don’t try to manipulate or sort anything out in the mind, just feelthe sense of your own existence, be one with this feeling of presence. It does not matter if attachment is there or not, if thoughts are there or not, just feel that you exist, and you will notice that this feeling of existence is not limited to an individual or a body. It is consciousness itself, what you are.
Don’t be attached to non-attachment. If you have no preference whether attachment is there or not, you are free, and the surface attachments then have no foundation to stand on.
If you drop all ideas of self, who you are, what you are like, what you have done, then there will be no one left to be attached to anything. Some habitual reactions or attachments may play for a while, but they are no big deal.
To sum up: stop arguing with Life. If attachment is present, don’t try to stop it or control it. Let it be, and it loses power without you needing to do anything.