By Dayna Mason
One of our greatest sources of pain is attachment to outcomes—our attempt to control our experiences. The tighter our grip on the way we want things to be, the more suffering we experience even when we get our way. Life has its own way of unfolding. When we let go of our need to control it, we free ourselves to receive the best that life has to offer.
The benefit of nonattachment
If you’ve ever stressed out over an upcoming decision, or worried that you made the right choice, you’ve experienced attachment—attachment to the outcome.
Nonattachment is when we let go of our attempt to control what is occurring and release our need for things to be a particular way. Nonattachment allows us to move through life recognizing our best opportunities instead of letting people or things have such a hold on us that we miss those opportunities.
Studies have shown that nonattachment is more important than the currently popular practice of mindfulness. Not only does it reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, it increases prosocial behaviors such as empathy and kindness (Sahdra, 2015). It also promotes psychological maturity—outcomes of wisdom and self-actualization (Whitehead et al., 2018).
Nonattachment is not passive; instead it’s a flexible way of relating to one’s experiences without clinging to or suppressing them. We do whatever we normally would do, only without fixation on getting it right or expectations about the way things should be.
Life will unfold in its own way whether we try to control it or not. Nonattachment allows life to unfold without obstruction. We can be more present, be available for others, take opportunities when they arise and move on from unhelpful experiences without getting stuck.
“To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.”–Jack Kornfield
Let go and prepare for your best life
It’s particularly difficult to let go of people and our expectations of them. We can ask ourselves “Do I feel bad more than I feel good? Given that this person, job, or situation isn’t going to change, is it what’s best for me?” If it’s not, we can make the decision to let go of expectations for things to change or we may need to move on from the person, job, or situation altogether.
There’s a difference between letting go and giving up. Giving up is defeat. It says “I can’t.” Letting go is strength. It says, “I won’t.” Letting go is a decision to allow people and things to be as they are. When we accept things as they are, we are free to make a choice that is best for us.
Once we let go of our attempts to control our experience, momentum takes over and we are able to see opportunities that were previously obscured by our limited view. It may be temporarily painful, but once we’ve released our attachment to the things that are hurting us, the things that are good for us can and will find us.
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