Learning to let go is a tough gig. We hold onto things with dear life – our habitual coffee routine, our fears of the future, our belief of our self worth….the list is endless. Attachment to people, places and things rule our world. They set our framework for decisions and become our road map for life. We can define an attachment as something that we have, that if we were to lose we would feel deprived, disappointed and even depressed. They can conjure a sense of loss and in most cases we will go to great lengths to protect these things that we hold near and dear.
Having attachment is part of being human, it is unavoidable (unless you are of course a realised being) so we need to accept that we will indeed have a feeling of needing something or someone. What we can do though as mere mortals (not realised beings) is identify the things we do feel attached to and work towards a place of letting go. Letting go of the attachment, of the grasping and the clinging.
It can be challenging to start to work with this, as we have sold ourselves a story that we simply can’t live with out these things. True it is pretty hard to survive with out food and water, but I am not talking about the items in the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – what I am referring to are the attachment we develop towards people, places and things.
Some tips in letting go:
1. First thing is first, we need to identify what we have attachments to. Think about the things you have in the “can’t live without category” – these are things that should you lose them or not have them they make you feel disappointed, angry, sad or lost. This can be everything from cigarettes, to a person, to your morning coffee, to sleeping in, to fluffy towels….anything that if it is not there you notice it.
2. Awareness is the most important step, you may have developed attachments to things you did not even realise. Do you feel annoyed when your favourite muffin is sold out at the cafe? How does your morning function if you have not “had your caffeine fix”? Perhaps you are attached your own ideas of something. The big one is of course our attachment to people – this is a hard one as we often confuse love and attachment. However it does not mean the more we are attached the more we love someone.
3. Categorise your attachments in to useful or not useful. What are the things that serve you? What are the things that are getting in your way of achieving your greatness? An attachment to an early morning run is perhaps a healthy attachment, but having 5 cups of coffee a day not so useful.
4. Practice letting go – I prefer to not say “give up” your attachments as this only gives us the sense of deprivation and what happens is when we are under pressure, we snap back to our old ways. Once you have identified the things you are attached to, start with the one that is least useful and try “letting go” – simply stopping it for a period of time. This may be a day, a week, a month. If it is way of thinking (eg I can’t possibly do that job) then you may try even an hour. Specify a set period of time that is achievable. During this time notice when you “need” this thing or refer to it the most – what is happening right now?
4. When letting go, it is important to let in. Replace the attachment (habit, thought pattern, toxic relationship) with something that is useful. A more useful practice that supports your overall well being. This can be anything from treating yourself to a massage, attending a yoga class, swapping your morning coffee for a green smoothy – anything that nourishes you.
The more we practice with letting go, the more we can live life in the flow. Undeterred by the world around us, we can become less angry, and more open to just about anything. We also let go of patterns that no longer serve us and work towards filling our lives with useful habits that help us in living the life we dream of.