“You only lose what you cling to.” ~Buddha
I remember one of my first mindfulness classes that pertained to impermanence. I went home in a bit of a slump.
Nothing is permanent; everything ends; “This too, shall pass.” It was quite a shock to the system.
After getting over what, on surface level, seemed to be incredibly dire, I realized that this could be incredibly liberating.
Enter the principle of non-attachment, a notion that has the potential to aid in the evolving nature of day-to-day life.
Rather than clinging to things—relationships, jobs, material goods—hoping that they will last forever, or being fearful that the uncomfortable parts of our lives will never change, we learn to deal with the moments as they arise.
There is power in knowing that our moments can, and will, inevitably shift.
Knowing the good won’t last forever gives us permission to embrace the moment fully without clinging or depending on it.
Acknowledging the bad won’t last forever gives us strength to move forward instead of being caught up in helplessness, and insight to make shifts and changes if need be.
Impermanence is a blessing in disguise. And non-attachment is the only way to truly forgive and love another person.
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? How can non-attachment possibly lead to a happy, fulfilled relationship?
In my last relationship, I prided myself on being honest and open. I didn’t want to play games, because that’s not the sort of person I am, nor the sort of man I wanted to attract into my life.
I wanted a guarantee that he would stick around and that our relationship was progressing. I wanted to know that he wasn’t going to just disappear from my life, a dialogue from my past that prickled at my defense mechanisms and inevitably pushed him away, too.
This made me fearful and scared, and I shut down intermittently. This invisible pressure burdened the both of us.
The hard truth is that there are no guarantees.
Of course, there were other factors in our relationship. The point here is that there was also an unhealthy attachment present; I became dependent on him, and I clung.
I was like a child who was holding onto a baby animal, who was so scared of it running away that I held it tightly, suffocating it.
Non-attachment means that you are able to live your life outside of the other person; it ultimately takes pressure off and allows you to be without depending on anything or anyone to feed your soul.
Clinging onto things—relationships, jobs, materials goods—simply does not make sense considering their evolving nature.
These things add to your life, but they are not your life. You’re all that’s guaranteed, and even you grow and change, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
This doesn’t mean that past lessons or past behaviors can’t or won’t guide your present actions, or that future goals aren’t important. Instead, it means that you can live out your moments naturally and organically, with appreciation and/or awareness, because you aren’t leaning on something that might change or shift.
Non-attachment in relationships is not indifference or apathy to another person. It’s an absence of fear. Fear and clinginess comes from a sense of impending loss.
However, if we go into a relationship or exist in a relationships already knowing that things may change or shift (for better or worse), we rid ourselves of pressure and burdening expectations. We can approach the relationship and issues with an open heart and simply see what unfolds naturally.
Relinquishing (some) control is scary, but not impossible.
This is not to be confused with blind acceptance of things that aren’t satisfying.
Existing in the unattached present moment acknowledges what is actually happening now and gives us the power and capacity to shift or change a situation, which is also applicable to a relationship that isn’t what you want, need, or deserve.
I know many couples who are staying together, even if it hasn’t been working for years and years, because it was “so good long ago.”
I’m an advocate for working through things, but ultimately, the present is all that is relevant.
As far as relationships go, I was once told that some people you simply get for a season, some people appear in your life intermittently, and some people stay around for longer and forever, if you’re lucky.
The catch, is that you ultimately don’t know which category the person you’re dating or in a relationship is or will be in, and red flags aside, there is no way to know.
However, being unattached, open, and aware is a key ingredient to experiencing a relationship organically, and observing what may unfold.
Couple with balloons image via Shutterstock