Wednesday Revelations: Lessons in Non-attachment

“Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.”


The theme of the last two weekend’s has been non-attachment.  What the heck am I talking about?  Well see this post for a full description.  In short though, non-attachment is the practice of letting go…of expectations  (internal, societal, or otherwise), desires, etc.  Its about being able to  say, “I’m ok with this, even though it isn’t my plan, because I am right where I’m supposed to be right now.”  Its a bit of a mindfulness practice really.

And without expectation (pun intended), the last two weekends have been super heavy on the non-attachment lessons.  Let me backtrack:

Halloween Weekend 2011

Friday: work, 1-4; get home/go to Trader’s/make Pumpkin Whip Dip; drive to CT, 7-8;  get ready; drive to Coventry; eat/drink/be merry/dominate the pong table, 9:00-12:00.

Saturday: try to figure out how the hell I’m getting to Boston later, 12:30-1:30; sleep, 1-7:30; leave CT, 7:52; arrive home where I need to shower, get ready, and re-pack, 8:56; arrive Union Station, 9:23; catch Commuter Rail, 9:25; realize I have no cash and breathlessly (from sprinting to catch said train) tell the conductor, 9:26;  arrive at VegFest: 11:30 <–30 minutes into the presentation I busted my ass to get to Boston on-time to see.  Are you tired yet?   It started to pour, one friend had to cancel her visit, the hail prevented us from getting to PumpkinFest…the list goes on and on.

So what happened instead?  I had the chance to meet aforementioned speaker, I bought lots of yummy delicious goodies, I got coupons, and a ride to my other friend’s apartment where I would be staying for the evening.   We had the chance to catch-up one-on-one, I had the chance to show off my cooking-on-the-fly skills, we found a great bar, I realized some un-integrated fears about my desire to not pursue medical school at this point (more on that later), I had the chance to try some delicious new beers (this and this), and the list goes on and on.

Sunday: the lessons continued with my 3.5 hour commuter rail ride and $30 parking fee.  This lesson I did not take very well.  I was tired, hungry, cranky, and just wanted to be home.  There may have been tears involved.  Yes, I cry when I get frustrated.  We received no updates about why we were stopped besides the Pike for 30 minutes (watching the cars speed happily along) and my great plan (to be home by 2, grocery shopping by 3, and back home to cook and relax for the first time all week by 5) went out the window.

Like I said, lessons in non-attachment.

This weekend was more of the same.  I had my mine blown by a fellow Passion consultant’s demo.  Guests cancelled, guests bought.  Vegan food didn’t agree with me <–WTH?, we missed breakfast, my libido took a vacation, the list goes on and on.

So what the heck is my point with this over share?

As humans, we like order.  We make plans and to do lists, set goals and live up to expectations, deal with an endless cycle of hope and disappointment, and try to control everything we can (and some things we can’t…like the commuter rail and the weather).  But very rarely do we just let go.  Even in situations where it is forced, so many of us are caught up in our minds that we forget one simple fact: we’re not really in control.  So instead of going with the flow and accepting what we can’t change (Newport Wine Festival, anyone?), we complain and remain stagnant in a place of suffering.

That being said, I believe that absolutely everything happens for a reason.  I also believe that sometimes we aren’t meant to know the reason and other times we just don’t want to accept the reason.  Maybe that cancer diagnoses is your wake-up call; it’s up to you to take it.  Maybe your financial difficulties occurred because your children needed to learn (the hard way) how to budget for themselves and others and now they are making a living off of it.  Now what about tragedies like 9/11 or the earthquake or the tsunami or…?  Maybe they were meant to bring us together and highlight the beauty of human nature.

My goal here is to not dismiss tragedy, personal or national, or diminish its import and impact.  I’m overly empathetic and my heart aches for my patients, be them 29 and discovering both that they are pregnant and have cancer, or 84 and just wanting to live the remainder of their lives pain-free and content.  I cry when I watch the coverage of large scale disasters.  My heart goes out to every person ever touched by tragedy.  In fact, its overwhelming sometimes to feel so much, especially if I’m dealing with my own inner demons

But we have a choice when tragedy strikes: do we allow ourselves to become attached to it and, in turn, let it in to define us, or do we mourn our loss, feel our pain, and then release, continuing to live our lives as fully as possible, recognizing that everyone has dealt with tragedy at some point?

It is something I am working on.  Sometimes I am able to just kept breathing, reminding myself that every experience was happening as it should and when it should.  And sometimes I lose it, revel in my poor situation, cry, have a fit, etc.  Its a process right?  Sometimes I choose non-attachment and its cohorts, release and contentment, and sometimes I choose suffering.  I’d like to think that lately my choices have been leaning more towards the former.

And just because I know this idea will not set well with many people, I want to provide a more personal, concrete example.

The lesson of non-attachment (although Universe knows I did not recognize its true nature at the time) was never more clear than at the movement workshop I participated in with the amazing, legendary, and more-than-easy-on-the eyes Johnny Gillespie.  I’m putting a picture below so that I can make point 3 a bit clearer…and because this post clearly needs more photos…and because photos of attractive men are always a good thing, especially when back muscles are involved. <–shutting up now


Have you finished ogling yet?

How about now?  Ok good. 😉

ANYWAY… at one point Johnny asked those of us in the workshop to raise our hands if they were dealing with injury or pain.  My hand shot up because hell yes I was in pain, lots of it.  Plus I couldn’t really do half of the poses because of my wrists (adorned, of course, with hot pink Kineso tape) and therefore my practice was suffering…insert Gremlin-like series of thoughts.  Surprisingly to me though was the fact that almost every other individual in that room raised a hand as well.  It took all of my strength to not burst into tears right then and there.  Here I was living in my own little world of suffering and pity and pain (which I deserved to fully feel for at least a little bit…we all have our moments), so caught up that I couldn’t stop to recognize that others might be in the same position, if not state of mind, as me.

That workshop changed my life.  It changed the way I move, the way I breathe, the way I practice, the way I approach challenge, and I’m sure so many other ways that haven’t been completely realized yet.  I had a choice: allow my injury to define who I am or not.  I finally, freely decided to choose the latter.  Do I still hurt?  Yes.  Do I still complain how unfair my pain is, being only 23?  Not really.  That day I chose freedom.  I chose to release my attachment to the pain and all of the additional, unnecessary suffering which accompanied it.  I chose non-attachment.

My goal for the rest of the year is to practice non-attachment.  Unwittingly, I began this journey back in June when, after my Kripalu retreat, I began ridding my life of clutter and unnecessary physical items.  That part of non-attachment is easy for me, letting go of the clothes I haven’t worn and the knick knacks that I really don’t need to dust.  The hard part is the non-attachment to experiences (like breakfast this past weekend) and goals and dreams.

Which do you find harder?


Kait xo


7 thoughts on “Wednesday Revelations: Lessons in Non-attachment

  1. I love how similar we are, yet how differently we approach the world. I feel like this is really more appropriate for an in-person discussion (prana + philosophy date soon?), but I will make a few key points:

    A. I believe that suffering is caused by rejection (which I guess maybe has to do with attachment to an extent). I like to illustrate this with rain: people hunch up their shoulders and run and feel absolutely miserable being caught in the rain. But have you ever just accepted being wet? It’s can actually feel really nice, almost like a little massage. You’re wet. So what? It’s water. You shower, right? The same can be true about physical pain. Really accepting it and feeling it can actually be freeing, and the pain lessens. I believe this is how morphine derivatives work. As I understand, you still feel the pain, but you just don’t care about it. I learned this from Buddhism. Stub your toe? FEEL that pain, don’t reject it. It won’t be so bad.

    B. I don’t think it’s healthy (in a mental health way) to try to go through life being unattached to EVERYTHING. That immediately reminds me of depression. I remember my downward spiral starting with the thought that no expectations are a good thing, because i can only be surprised for the better. Turns out (studies have shown) MOST (not even some or half) of our enjoyment comes from our expectations. To borrow a quote from Daniel Gilbert’s “Stumbling on Happiness” : “Forestalling pleasure is an inventive technique to get double the juice from half the fruit.”

    I am ALL for recognizing when you have no control and letting it be (Newport Winefest!) – ie freeing yourself from attachment to control, but I think expectations are good. Aside from the warm fuzzies they can bring you, they also guide us on appropriate behavior. Asserting yourself to be treated with respect required expectations and attachment and I don’t think that’s wrong.

    Secondly, being attached to a goal is a good thing, IMO. It helps to drive you and makes sure you follow through on your plans. Can you change those plans? Of course you can. But commit yourself to your goals so that you don’t just toss them by the wayside when things get tough.

    Also, I don’t think I believe “everything happens for a reason” but I do believe that all of our previous experiences shapes us to who we are at the moment. These are related, though not the same. I don’t believe in some mystical set journey that we are on and that say, cancer has a cause other than that of a cellular nature. (I believe this is where Lissa and I part ways, and why I have trouble with a lot of what she says) But I do think that when a person is diagnosed with cancer, their life is often put into perspective and they realize it is too short for petty bs. Same goes for less morbid things, like job and school rejections. No, I don’t think we get rejected from our dream [insert house/school/job/significant other] so that we can be lead to a better one, but I believe that rejection helps to shape us and there will always be a next opportunity, so we should take it with a better outlook after losing out a previous one.

    Just thoughts. =) Glad you are doing what is working for you, though. Let’s date soon. ❤

    • I love how you realized this AFTER you wrote me said novel. And I love the novel too.

      Also, your point A is exactly what I was getting at. Acceptance/non-attachment: two sides of the same coin, right? We’re attached to being dry or looking perfect or getting htere on time. I should have been clearer on feeling vs non-attachment: I believe you can have both because I believe in mindfulness. The whole stubbing the toe thing is exactly that: feel the pain, be in the moment, and breath through it. 🙂

      I’ll respond to the rest later/at prana. ❤

  2. Pingback: How Medicine Broke My Heart « yogabeautylife

  3. Pingback: Wednesday Revelations: The Unfinished « yogabeautylife

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