Non-Attachment (Photo credit: Chicago Man)

While growing up I learned at a very young age to not expect much from people and from life in general.  It was too painful to look forward to something and have it be taken away.  It wasn’t that I was totally deprived, however my mother often verbally abused me and she gave me the message that I was undeserving. One of her punishments was that I was never allowed to have a Barbie doll because when I was very little I accidentally broke my sister’s Barbie doll. I didn’t know that Barbie couldn’t move in certain ways and so I tried to make her straddle a model horse. Of course her legs broke off. Even though my mother knew what had happened, she assumed that I had broken the doll on purpose. She declared that I would not get a Barbie until I learned how to take care of toys. Ironically I had always taken good care of my toys.

This may sound like I am being a little whiney about something that small, but for me as a kid getting this doll was really important because it represented my mother’s forgiveness.  So it was a big deal to me. Year after year I waited and despite my taking very good care of my toys my mother refused to budge. She finally bought me a Barbie knock-off which was literally held together by rubber bands. So despite the fact that I did take good care of it, it broke very quickly. My mother did not buy me another doll.

So the message I got from my mother was that I did not deserve the kind of love and forgiveness that my sister had. Growing up I extended that feeling to the rest of the world. I didn’t make friends easily because I figured that they would hate me because I was such a horrible person. As an adult I was afraid to try new things on the job because of the fear of being judged. This resulted in me being in an entry-level job that I hated for twelve years. Dating was a bust because even in my one long-term relationship, I still didn’t feel worthy.

My approach for much of my life has simply been not expecting anything and then being surprised when I do get something. That actually sounds a bit spiritual since it resembles the words of the Buddha who taught equanimity and non-attachment to all things, both bad and good. But it is in fact very, very different from what the Buddha meant by non-attachment.

It is different because it is fear-based, It is based on the fear of disappointment and the fear that I am undeserving. Furthermore feeling undeserving is a guarantee that I will chase anything good out of my life.  So this is not non-attachment. It is an attachment to an emotion, fear. It is also an attachment to guilt, the feeling that I deserve to be punished.

Simply put, it is an attachment to a negative result.

True non-attachment is based on the fact of the non-permanence of reality-things change. Therefore enjoy the good, but know it won’t last forever. Endure the bad because it will not last forever, either. And don’t see every apparent bad thing as necessarily being bad because you never know, it might actually have a good-long term result.

In my next post I am going to explore the relationship between non-attachment and the Law of Attraction.