I recently spent more than a day crafting and preparing a workshop on the yogic way of life, which has given me SO MUCH joy and peace (and, as a side note is SUPER Christ-like) … YET, no one came to the workshop. On a similar note, years ago I had the opportunity to speak and show encouragement and love to an addict. In the following years it brought me great joy to see her life transform and blossom in incredible ways. Even though life took us apart geographically, I got to witness this on Facebook. Some time ago, though, I stopped seeing her on Facebook and it appears we’re not friends, but the evidence I do see elsewhere strongly indicates things went dramatically south for her. I share all this because lately I’ve been witnessing the immense peace and contentment that comes from practicing non-attachment, and wanted to share some of it with you in this blog. Enjoy! 🙂
The aforementioned workshop was on five outer ways of being in the world and five inner dispositions named Yamas and Niyamas. Aparigraha, one of the Yamas, is the practice of nonattachment and non-covetousness. I’d sum up the beauty and freedom of this habit like this: Nonattachment is giving your gift and walking away, loving others well without expectation, doing your “job” wonderfully with no need to be recognized or awarded, speaking encouraging/affirming words to people without a need for reciprocity, and so on.
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE how ironic life is sometimes (cue famous Alanis Morissette song from the ‘90s). I point that out because isn’t it SUPER ironic that an integral part of my workshop, that NOBODY came to, was the goodness of doing your “thing” without expectation of a return? Talk about getting to practice what I preach!
Consider my addict friend. While I certainly didn’t take credit for her recovery and once blossoming life, it did bring me great pleasure to see her bliss and I took some satisfaction in having played a small part. My point here is simple: The more we attach our self-esteem, hopes, or worth to the results of our efforts, the reaction of others, or a response in kind, the unhappier we will be. It’s really that simple. It seems to me expectations truly steal our joy.
I like images and metaphors, so think of attachment and nonattachment in terms of our hands. When we attach to an outcome, response, or reward, it’s like we’re clinging with white knuckles and gritted teeth to the “ending” we desire, which means when what we want doesn’t come true (which, I think is the majority of the time), we’re left defeated and worn out. Conversely, though, when we don’t attach to a result, reaction, or recognition, it’s like we’re sitting peacefully with palms open and ready to receive whatever gifts life may bring … which often turn out to be better than what we’d wanted in the first place!
The positive side of nonattachment, the gift it helps us realize we’ve each had all along is this Truth: You are enough and have everything you need already, NO doing required. It’s a gift and naming from God in your being. The question is: How do we feel and realize this Truth? While there are many ways, I’ll leave you with three.
First, take time to simply be. Practice yoga. Do meditation and/or contemplation. Spend time in nature. In these sacred moments our minds quiet and we “hear” (in my experience it’s typically a bodily sensation and/or deep feeling in our heart/gut/center) God’s peace wash over and into us, filling us with joy and naming us beautiful and beloved(note: While I name this “God”, you might not and that’s totally cool).
Second, practice Aparigraha, i.e. nonattachment. Let me pause to note “practice” means we’ll make mistakes, mess it up, and stumble. So, PRACTICE not attaching your satisfaction, happiness, worth, or contentment to the fruits of your efforts. Expect nothing and let the joy come from the doing/giving. While this applies to all walks of life, thinking of it in terms of close relationship is super helpful. For instance, I’m finding the more I care for, give to, encourage, and generally give life to my wife, Lisa, without expecting anything in return, the happier we both are. PLUS, I think that’s real, unconditional love. Love doesn’t need a reason or response; it is the reason and response.
Third, is use #partslanguage. Enough said, right? 😉 Seriously, though, I saw a post this week from a friend on Instagram about Parts Language, which I’d never heard of before, and thought OH MY WORD THAT IS SO GOOD!!! You know how when we’re happy, sad, angry, and so on, we identify ourselves with our feelings? “You make me SO angry,” we say to someone who hurt us. “I’m happy”, we tell people when we’re feeling great. “Life makes me sad,” we say when we’re going through hard times. The thing is, while we HAVE feelings and thoughts, we are NOT our feelings or thoughts. YET, the problem is, as reflected in the above phrases, we frequently attach ourselves, that is identify ourselves with or define ourselves by our thoughts and feelings.
Parts Language, though, seems to me to be a powerful tool for both developing healthier relationships and detaching ourselves from our feelings/thoughts. Say someone close to you really triggers you and you let him/her know: “What you did really pisses me off and I’m SUPER angry.” What’s her/his response going to be, probably not great, right? The thing is, though, truthfully only PART of you is angry, while other parts are sad, hungry, joyful, hopeful, worried, etc. That said, Parts Language invites us speak more holistically and kindly by saying in response to an intimate family/friend hurting you something like: “Part of me is angry at what you did. Part of me is sad for a friend struggling with depression. Part of me is hopeful you just misspoke. Part of me is joyful that you’re my ____. Part of me is worried about my job.” And so on.
It seems to me that not only is Parts Language good for our relationships, it’s great for our souls. It helps us detach our identities from our thoughts and feelings. As I think about Parts Language in light of nonattachment, it seems to me it’d be helpful to take it even further because saying “Part of me is ___” still attaches some of our selves to our thoughts/feelings. A further step toward greater living and loving better could be saying something like: “I have some anger regarding what just happened.”
Practicing nonattachment is changing my life in the most amazing ways, and I bet it will for you too! The more we detach our identity, value, and success from the results of and response to our efforts, and even our own thoughts/feelings, the more freely and fully alive and rich with love we become. Step by step it brings more peace and joy to everyone.
Grace and peace,