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Let Go of Attachment: You Can Be Happy Even if Things Change

Let Go

“Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

A wise old soul once told me that I needed to practice not being attached.

I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. I remember he gave me a very intelligent and understandable definition of attachment, but because it made such little sense to me, there was very little I could do with it. It was incomprehensible.

I have found that, like the definition of attachment, it isn’t the teachings themselves that give us the answer; it is our own discovery, in our own experience, of the truth and wisdom of the lessons.

At that point in my life, I hadn’t discovered for myself what being attached looked or felt like. 

I was doing the “normal” things a “normal” person does. I had gotten through school, failed at a few relationships, bought a house, got a car payment and a cat, and was building a business.

Life was just going along, seemingly building on experiences and things as the years went by. I was building the life I thought would make me happy.

I had been practicing not being attached to material things. But that wasn’t a grueling stretch for me. I had grown up in two modern American households where I never had to wonder if we would have food to eat or if my dad would buy me those ever so important designer jeans. Life was fine; everything was going my way.

Then, like magic, life started to give me opportunities to discover for myself what those smart people were really teaching about attachment.

Two years ago, I lost my house. I remember my mother asking me if I was really sad to be losing the house where both of my children were born. I was embarrassed that the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. I thought there was something wrong with me that I hadn’t put any significance on that.

Ah Ha! My first discovery about attachment: I had the choice to give significance to any circumstance. I could choose to make it mean something that caused me to suffer, or not.

I thought, “Hey, I’ve got this un-attached thing mastered.”

Right.

Very recently I was blind-sided with the possibility of losing the business that I have spent the last 15 years creating.

There was no shedding of blood or sweat (I sit at a computer and on the phone) but I’ve fully invested my heart, my energy, and my spirit in this business. People know me as my business; my identity is tied up in it.

I started looking from every tool and teaching I had ever learned about dealing with challenging situations. I remembered the lesson on attachment. I actually found the notes I had written down, a gift from that wise old soul, so many years ago.

He had said, “Attachment is the emotional dependence we put on things, or people, with some degree of our survival interwoven into the precious thing we hold so dear.”

I had practiced not being attached to “stuff.” But for heaven’s sake, this wasn’t stuff! This was my business!

But, the lesson doesn’t say: don’t be attached to material items. It says, don’t wrap yourself, your identity, and your survival around anything or anyone.

Ugh. I guess that means my business too. That thought annoyed me, and I was vehemently resisting even considering that.

I’d gotten angry at the circumstances that caused this to happen. I’d made myself wrong for putting so much into something that seemed to be real, but turned out to be quite elusive. I played the victim and wondered why in the world this was happening to me.

And then I realized that all of that chatter in my head, and all of that upset and suffering was a function of me throwing a childish little (ok big) temper tantrum because things weren’t going the way I wanted them to go. The universe was not aligning itself around what I wanted.

And then I had another thought: maybe all of that stuff I did and built, to have the life I wanted, wasn’t it. What if I didn’t know better? What if the universe was providing me with what I needed?

What if what I needed to get what I really want in life—peace and happiness—looked different than what I had imagined?

That was worth pondering. If I was brutally honest with myself, my business didn’t bring me real joy; it was just something I was good at.

I thought, “Wow, maybe this is the opportunity to really pursue what I want to do with the rest of my life! What if the universe was just gently pushing me out of my comfortable nest, and forcing me to fly?”

And thus I have discovered: Sometimes the dreams we chase and the life we design for ourselves really do provide us with happiness and peace, and yet sometimes it takes letting go, and having faith like we have faith in our next breath, that there is a divine and perfect order; we just might not be seeing it at the time.

Photo by yosoynuts

Avatar of Cherie DiNoia

About Cherie DiNoia

Cherie is a coach, a mom, an entrepreneur, and a champion for happiness. She is committed to standing for people to choose their own happiness. You can read her blog, where she laughs at herself, and shares her own discoveries at: http://www.CherieDiNoia.com

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  • rrmk

    The section about throwing a temper tantrum because the universe want aligning for you – wow. This really resonates with me. Thank you for writing this article – it is what I needed right now and for the first time in 2 months I feel some peace.

  • Catherine

    This is a beautiful vision of letting go – I wish you continued peace with your endeavours. Cx

  • Joshua

    Great post, thanks!

  • INFJ

    Lovely!

  • Desh

    best lesson i’ve learned with budhism

  • Sara Davis

    I can really relate to this. Almost one year ago, I lost my 6-year-old son in a drowning accident. I have struggled, and will likely continue to struggle, with letting him go. As I prepare for the anniversary of his death, this was just what I needed to read. Some days it’s easier to have faith and trust in that divine perfect order. Some days it’s not. And though I may never know or understand the reason, I can only pick up the pieces and try to continue on with my life without him.

  • Betty Lupacchino

    Great message Cherie. Sounds like you’ve found your true calling. Keep up the great writing. It really touches the heart.

  • Mari

    This has really hit home for me at a perfect time nonetheless.

  • growthguided

    What huge skillset, being able to detach from thoughts, people and places is such a huge goal. We strive to please all these external things that are temporal, when really all we need to do is approach all things with compassion and let go after the experience. @GrowthGuided

  • Ilke Sharratt

    Thanks for sharing your story. It resonated with me as I have been learning over the last year how to not be attached to the outcome and it’s quite an art.

  • Ilke Sharratt

    Sara that is no doubt difficult to understand and my heart goes out to you. I just wanted to send you some love and give you strength to embrace the time you did have together x

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    Hi Cherie – loved your story. I reckon that the universe does have our back and it is up to us to be content.

  • Sara Davis

    Thank you so much. I am a work in progress…but trying to emphasize “progress.”

  • SC

    Great reminder, particularly on how we are very attached to our identity – our work or business, or our designation as parent or partner. Funny when you strip those titles away one feels very adrift. I’m going through that now too.

  • SC

    That’s not something one can “let go” very easily if ever. I lost my step daughter at age 28 and it took a good 3 years to be okay with it. I can’t even imagine on such a little one of my own. I wish you much peace on this.

  • Sara Davis

    thank you. peace is a process.

  • Angela Lam Turpin

    What a wonderful article on attachment and what it really means. Yes, it is easier to understand detachment from material objects but not so easy to explain detaching from everything else. I think this is what Jesus meant when he told people who wanted to become his disciples to give up their wealth, their families, their entire lives and follow him. He meant detachment in a most profound sense where our identities are no longer shattered by labels and boxed into roles. Thank you for shedding light on this topic in a heartfelt and genuine way.

  • Graham

    Really enjoyed your article and the perfect timing of it ! Thank You

  • Candy

    How? How do you let go of a person you have become attached to?

  • alison

    Great article and perfect timing for me, I have just separated from my partner if two years, not my choice but I know in time I will appreciate what it means for me and my life. Thanks for the insight.

  • j

    Life and death are all a part of the natural balance. You might not reunite, but know that he is not gone from this universe. Nothing disappears, but transforms from one source of energy to another. This world is perfect, else it wouldn’t be here. Stay strong Sara and enjoy life. You still have much left! He’ll always be with you.

  • http://soundcloud.com/jaroomusic Jamie R

    Beautifully written Cherie. Thank you :)

  • Guest

    Thank you for sharing a powerful message. For as long as I can remember, I let many things define me. Losing important things and people have changed my outlook; nothing lasts forever. I am learning to let go and trust in perfect and divine order. It has brought me comfort and peace.