I’ve only just begun a dedicated practice of vairagya, which is non-attachment, and it's a beautiful thing. At times, though, it's frustrating when I get overwhelmed with myriad things from which I’d like to detach all at once! Possessions, thoughts, outcomes, people, preconceived notions, ideas, fears, insecurities, money, vanity… the list can go on and on.
So, how does one simply break ties with attachment?
With great practice and dedication, one hopes to.
Let’s begin with three areas in which to practice vairagya. You may be thinking, "Oh, just three? Three’s not hard." But they’re a big three. So, without further ado, here are The Big 3:
1. Other people's opinions of you
It’s not out of the ordinary to feel attached to what others think of you. It's an unconscious habit, but I challenge you to become conscious of this behavior.
It’s the only way to create change; it’s the only way to heighten one’s own awareness; and it’s the only way to detach.
Attaching to a stranger cutting you off on the freeway, not holding the door open for you, or acting brusquely towards you in line at the market is frankly no more or less warranted than attaching to a friend thinking you make poor fashion choices, your brother thinking it’s stupid that you’re vegetarian, or your boyfriend thinking you spoil your dog too much. Do what makes you happy. Not everyone’s going to think you’re cool, or funny, or smart, or attractive, or wise. They just aren’t. We are, after all, neither our bodies nor our minds, so why should we attach to any of it?
This one’s hard. Have you ever been asked, “What five belongings would you save if your house was on fire?” It's one of my least favorite questions. Oh, I don’t know, one of the 17 journals I've saved since I began journaling nearly 15 years ago? My precious jewelry? Photo albums? Can my entire hope chest, full of sacred things, count as one item? Le sigh.
I’ve learned that attachment to “things” can vary. It’s not always the ”I love this sooo much” kind of attachment; sometimes it’s a negative memory that replays each time something is looked at, used or worn.
Either way, stuff is just stuff. Without any of it, you’d still be you, and I’d still be me. It’s ok to have stuff, but it can become negative if your happiness depends on your possessions. Who we are has nothing to do with what we have. Things are simply ornaments.
3. Your body
This one gives me the most trouble. You’re not your body; you’re not your mind. But if I were to pull on my jeans tomorrow morning and suddenly not be able to get them past my thighs, I’d have a total identity crisis.
It’s embarrassing, but hey, I admit it. I’m not there yet. I haven't acquired a peaceful union with the “I’m not my body or my mind” notion. I’m accepting and welcoming of it, but I’m not completely sold just yet. It will take a lot of practice for me.
I am a soul. I’m not a body, I’m not a mind. The body and the mind complement what I am, and that is a soul. A thread of awareness. A spirit. A divine cognizance.
The flatness of my stomach has nothing to do with my soul. The length of my hair has nothing to do with my thread of awareness. The circumference of my thighs has nothing to do with my spirit. The size of my pants, bra and shoes have absolutely nothing to do with my divine cognizance.
I believe practicing non-attachment towards one’s own physical appearance would be the best recipe for youth, beauty and success around. How ironic, right?
So let’s dedicate ourselves to the practice of non-attachment. Begin by lighting a little fire beneath that awareness. Ruminate on ideas; you are neither your body, nor your mind. What others think of you is null. You would be exactly who you are with or without any of your possessions. You would also be exactly who you are regardless of how your body changed, aged or dulled physically.
It’s a practice. A lifelong practice, and we can't predict the outcome. Simply practice. Simply be. Non-attachment is like a breath of fresh air. Practice diligently and practice without attachment to the practice itself (tricky, I know). Let it be gradual.