I’m nearing completion of the first draft of a new book which I am calling Don’t Change A Thing. I’ve decided to post a few selections from the book here over the next few days. I’d appreciate hearing feedback.
The book is intended to examine some of the common things that we mistakenly believe that we must reject or get rid of in order to attain freedom or whatever it is that we imagine we are seeking after. I cover anxiety, anger, stress, fear, thoughts, habits, judgment, sexuality, bodily concern, preferences, and the subject covered in the excerpt from this post: attachment.
What follows is the excerpt.
The idea that non-attachment is virtuous and valuable is prevalent across many spiritual and religious traditions. It forms an important role in Buddhism (including Zen,) Jainism, and Hinduism (including Vedanta and Advaita Vedanta) as well as other traditions such as Baha’i and Taoism. So it is no surprise that many spiritual seekers seek to get rid of attachment. Because we are led to believe that if we can succeed in getting rid of attachment then this will bring about enlightenment.
From a certain perspective non-attachment really is essential. Because non-attachment is what you are.
The difficulty is simply that you cannot choose non-attachment. And all attempts to get rid of attachment will merely reinforce the false notion that you are a separate self with volition.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that all the traditions that promote non-attachment are wrong. Far from it. I have a great deal of respect for some of these traditions. And, I suspect that the authentic origins of the mentions of non-attachment in these traditions may well be clear pointers. Furthermore, I have no doubt but what many who speak of non-attachment are doing so from clarity.
The trouble is just that many people get the wrong idea. Many people mistakenly imagine that it is possible to do non-attachment, to give up attachment. Yet once you clearly see that there is no separate self, then it becomes evident that no one can choose to give up attachment. No one can do that. No one can do anything. And the assumption that one can give up attachment prolongs suffering.
All attachment is within the story. And who you are is untouched by the story just as the happenings within a nightly dream do not touch you. So imagining that you could severe all attachment as a means to awaken to your true nature is like imagining that severing attachment in a nightly dream will bring about some sort of betterment of your life.
So the opportunity always is to discover that which always has no attachment. That is what non-attachment points to. And that happens entirely outside of the dream. Because what always has no attachment is the aliveness that you are, which is without bounds.
The other trouble with non-attachment is simply that since it is your true nature then it is always already the case. That means that all appearances of attachment are appearing in and as the non-attachment that you are. So there is absolutely no way to measure the degree to which some apparent individual is enlightened by how apparently non-attached they are.
Every apparent person is a unique movement in and as the unbounded aliveness that you are. So it is ridiculous to assume that every movement of non-attachment needs to look like some idea you have of what non-attachment looks like.
And no feeling can define non-attachment either. We tend to wrongly imagine that non-attachment is a particular feeling state. But it is not. That feeling state that we call detachment is merely a passing feeling state. It comes and goes in the non-attachment that you are.
True non-attachment, which is your true nature, is so completely non-attached that everything is included. Everything is welcome. And everything is allowed to appear and disappear instantly without any attachment. That is how complete true non-attachment is. And it is effortless. It is already happening.
Non-attachment, in truth, is so completely non-attached that even appearances of what we conceive of as attachment, including feelings that we imagine are attachment, are completely welcome and allowed. And they are all appearing and disappearing so instantaneously that there is never actually anything there. There is truly nothing to which anything could be attached.
So the meaning that you may assign to a particular feeling state, believing that it is non-attachment, is actually completely arbitrary. There is no proof whatsoever that the feeling state is actually non-attachment. It is just a feeling state that you call non-attachment. That is all.
And, in fact, there is evidence, even just logically, that the state that you call non-attachment is not actually non-attachment. Why? Because you experience what you call attachment to what you call non-attachment. You want the state that you call non-attachment while you reject other states.
True non-attachment, which is already what is the case, does not make these sorts of value judgments of states. True non-attachment welcomes all states indiscriminately.
So finally, to “cultivate non-attachment” is simply to recognize yourself as you already are. True non-attachment is to cease to imagine that you could possibly reject anything. True non-attachment is to discover that this is already it regardless of appearance or concept.