Practice Non-Attachment
Theresa Polley
July 6, 2020
September 7, 2023
Self Care

Life is full of ups and downs and hanging on and letting go. Certainly, at this point in history, it is a roller coaster ride for most of us, to put it mildly.

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope. ~Thomas Merton

For years, I carried this quote with me when I traveled and had it hung up in my office in a prominent place. I needed the reminder on a daily basis. After years of practice, I was able to embrace non-attachment. And I realized I did “not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going.” Finally!

Finding My Path to Non-Attachment

I’ve confessed at many a retreat that I’m a “recovering control freak.” While that may seem silly to some, I tried to control my life for years and by default, the people in it. I also tried to control the outcome of situations in my life. You and I both know it is simply impossible to control anything or anyone. 

I discovered attachment is what made me miserable. So often in my life, I stood in the way of my joy and I held myself in a position where I continued to suffer, because I was waiting for a particular response from an individual or situation.

The concept of non-attachment came into my life in 2016 and it was just what I needed. I was attached to everything. The lives of my adult children. Traffic caused by bad drivers. The actions (or mostly inactions) of romantic partners. Since I wanted a better outcome than I was getting, I pushed harder. I stressed more. I got frustrated. 

As I explored the concept of non-attachment, I realized that there was only heartbreak when I tried to cling to people, things and situations. And I realized while I can’t control the results I want, I can control my response to the results. When I choose compassion, to myself and to others, it allows me to freely give of myself without expecting some desired result in return.

Cultivating Non-Attachment

  • Let go of expectations. Expectations can be defined as a specific outcome you desire from a situation. An expectation actually limits you. If you don’t have a specific expectation in mind, anything is possible. I’ve decided to let go of the expectation and with it the attachment to the outcome and I let myself be open to possibility.
  • Stop "should-ing" on yourself. Delete the word “should” from your vocabulary. “Should” is a product of expectations. How many times do you think to yourself “I should be doing this.” or “He should be doing that.” Really? Allow your life to flow from a place of possibility instead of a place of limitations.
  • Find contentment within. Know that all of the people and things in the world won’t make you truly happy. True contentment comes from a strong sense of self and your place in the world. There truly is a space of peace and contentment within each of us. A meditation practice is one way to access it.
  • Allow your life to unfold. While I certainly don’t mean sit on the couch and do nothing and expect your life to be perfect, make room in your life for possibility. Open yourself up to any outcome, not just your desired outcome or the “best” outcome. One thing I’ve learned for sure is my ideal (best) outcome, may not actually be the best outcome at all.
  • Know you can only control your own thoughts and actions. Trying to control another person or a situation will only bring heartache and frustration. What other people do or say or think is completely out of your control. No matter how much you try to change their mind, only they can do that. Believe me, I know this from years of experience! You may share your thoughts, opinions and ideas - of course - but let go of the attachment to the response you will get. You can control your response.
  • Find compassion. Especially for yourself, but for others as well. I firmly believe we are all doing the best we can. Some days our best is better than other days. Be patient and kind to yourself and know that you are doing the best you can.

Non-attachment allowed me to open up space in my life for so many things, specifically peace, joy and contentment. It allowed me to be open to possibility. My life at this moment is unlike anything I had planned, but it is sweeter than I could have imagined and incredibly rewarding. May you find that to be true in your life.

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Theresa Polley

Theresa believes ALL women have the right to live life on their own terms. In 2004, she created Retreat in the Pines to give women a safe space to be their authentic selves without apology while finding the healing and renewal they deserve.

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