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Becoming Conscious: Learning the Art of Non-Attachment

By Lucy Costigan

Becoming attached to people, things and situations is part of the conditioning of almost every human being. Attachment develops when we identify with a person or thing and begin to believe that we need this for our happiness. But attachment is not love. In its most extreme manifestation the self will do anything to keep the object of its attachment within its sphere of influence and control. An addiction to any person or thing leads to behaviors such as manipulation, abuse and even violence. In its milder form, attachment is manifested as clinging, believing that the self is enhanced by the object of desire. Grief, rage or depression most often follows if loss of the object occurs.

Attachment is so ingrained in our culture that we take it as a normal way to relate. It permeates our songs, the films we watch, and the ideals of dependent coupledom that many are encouraged to emulate. Loving another and sharing with another, appreciating an object or enjoying a situation - all can be deeply and fully experienced. The difference however between love and attachment is in the core element of freedom. Love never restricts the free will of another, nor clings to any person. Being attached holds the mistaken belief that the beloved in some way enhances the sense of self. Fear and lack are the driving forces behind attachment.

Being non-attached does not mean that you do not relate deeply to other people or that you do not enjoy life. Being non-attached means that you have faced the ultimate illusion that anything in physical form will save you or give you constant happiness. Therefore you can enjoy the riches and beauty of life without clinging to anything or any person to give you a false sense of security or identity. Thus there is an awakening from illusion. There is a realization that we are alone in physical form, and that change and impermanence are the very basis of physical life. Yet by living in the moment we are opening to a new consciousness where we can feel our spiritual connection to all other beings.

In contrast to attachment, true love springs from the divine source within. Nothing can ever be added or taken away from an aware being. Therefore love does not seek to possess and capture. Love can only display its deepest nature by freely flowing and connecting in light with all other beings.

Moving from Attachment to Love
We can move from attachment to love in our relationships when we gain insight and understanding into the reasons we cling to a particular person or situation. With insight and understanding comes awareness into our thought patterns, emotions, motivations and behaviors. Only then can we choose to let go of mistaken beliefs and ways of living that we once accepted as being natural and desirable.

By working through the following questions you may gain some insight and understanding as to how and why attachments form. Go into the stillness that is deep within to inquire into these questions.

  • Is there someone or some situation that you are clinging to and deeply attached to?
  • What is it you need from this person or situation?
  • What would you do and feel if this person wanted to leave you, or if a particular situation you are attached to ended?
  • Could you truly let this person or situation completely go? In the case of a person, could you still feel love for the person who has left you?

Now take a moment to look deep inside yourself. How can you begin to bring love and joy into your own life? What can you do to treat yourself as you would a beloved? Make a list of any activities that come to mind.

Connecting with Source
No person, thing or situation is the source of your happiness. Nothing outside of yourself can fill the emptiness and aloneness that we all sometimes feel. There is something deep within that you need to connect with, to rely upon, to gain wisdom and inspiration from. This is the divine source that is your true nature. There is little to be gained in seeking love or approval from others. Being loved by another is a gift that we have nothing to do with. We cannot create or control another's love.

Delighting in time spent and moments shared with people we love, enjoying things we appreciate in life, feeling content and fulfilled in particular situations such as fulfilling work, are all beautiful experiences. But we need to realize that we are all free spirits, passing through this world, seeking to overcome the limitations of our conditioning and to develop our capacity to love. Learning to love in freedom, and practicing non-attachment in this passing physical world are perhaps the biggest steps we can take towards growth in awareness.

Lucy Costigan (email) is an Irish author and therapist. The above is an excerpt from her book: Course in Consciousness, iUniverse, 2005.
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