Have you ever felt a sense of relief after giving away something you had in excess? I did, always. More, many times I feel worried, pressured, tense, heavy because of the amount of things I have, many of them I don’t really use/ need. Things I have to think about, deal with, consider, organize, see… Last time I felt strongly like this was when I had to move all my stuff from London to Lisbon last January, to my mum’s apartment, before I started my travels: lots of clothes, shoes, accessories, books, tons of documents, tables, chairs, kitchen ware, office stuff, things and more things… that filled 26 boxes of 50cm for 50cm. How tiring and stressful…and boring as well. While packing, I suddenly started dreaming with the day of my departure to India, where I would carry only one small wheeled bag and one backpack… such a relief, I could already feel lighter and calmer. All I would have to “worry” for a year was a few kilos of stuff (that I really needed) and that was a powerful sensation. I was about to let go of attachment, at least for a year.
Because detachment has been having such a positive impact in my life in the past few months, I decided to investigate the concept of attachment a little more, and from different perspectives (with which I have been in contact with during my travels so far). Interestingly, there is much in common.
Notes on Attachment in Buddhism
Buddhism is a philosophy of joy, and non-attachment is a goal that will help us towards enlightenment. The first noble truth in Buddhist Philosophy says that life is “suffering”. The second explores the causes for this suffering , one of which is attachment. Buddha taught that attachment, “the desire to hold on to a permanent state or keep a thing or person”, generated craving, wanting, and insecurity”, and that was why he believed attachment was one of the main causes of human suffering. On the other hand, non-attachment, “aims to cultivate a mind free from these limiting desires. Once we do this we can then move towards a mind of oneness, which involves compassion, clarity of vision, and an understanding of impermanence“, acknowledging that everything is transitory.
Notes on Attachment in Yoga
Non-attachment or “aparigraha” is one of the 5 yamas (social restraints) in Yoga. “Yamas, and its complement, niyamas, represent a series of “right living” or ethical rules within Hinduism and Yoga”. Aparigraha is non-possessiveness, which not only means freedom from the desire to attain material possessions, but also from emotional attachments, intellectual ideas and opinions. Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants. Practising it will lead to a right, virtuous, enlightened living.
Notes on Attachment in Catholicism
The week before I left Portugal, I heard the following story from a Priest (in my own words):
There was a rich man that once came to Mother Teresa with a gift. He wanted to donate one of his beautiful houses. Mother Teresa was very grateful to him but she said she had to think about the offer. Intrigued with her hesitation, the man suggested she could sell the house and keep the money. She still had to think. A few days later, Mother Teresa came to the man and said: “thank you so much for your generous offer, which I will not be able to accept”. The man, puzzled, asked: “but why?”. Mother Teresa decisively responded: “At this moment, I don’t need it. And, when I accept something which I don’t need, it weighs me down. And everything that weighs me down, pushes me away from heaven.”
The bible also teaches us about detachment. When asked by a rich man what does he have to do to earn eternal life, Jesus tells him to obey the commandments. But not just that. Also to sell all he has, distribute to the poor and follow Him.
My Experience with Practising Non-attachment
Without doubt, I am currently feeling the true power of detachment in my life. Since I started travelling with 2 small bags with my essentials only, most of my worries and stress disappeared. I freed my mind. I allowed more space for living the moment, for being truly present and feeling constant happiness and realization (for which other factors naturally also contribute). May I take this important learning with me and apply it when I get back home, where it is more challenging.
MASTER FACT: Practising non-attachment will free up your mind, weigh you less and decrease your suffering. It will take you towards virtue, happiness and fulfillment. And it will open the door to enlightenment and heaven.