What is it that you find yourself most attached to? Do not worry if you come up with an answer, this is not a trick question. Is it a person, pet, job, social media, or is it something else? If you come up with one answer or more, it only shows that you are human. We all have people and things that we love, and from that love comes a sense of attachment.
You may have heard people talking or read some writings about the wisdom of letting go, and you begin to reconsider your attachments. Letting go is supposed to be a way of attaining spiritual freedom and happiness. So we learn to let go of our fears, our pride, our ego… We can continue down the list, until we get to the more important things. How much should we let go? Do we also need to let go of the people and things we love?
We are not ready for that.
Before you consider ridding yourself of your dearest possessions, consider this: what is it that’s really preventing us from attaining freedom and happiness? Is it the object of our affection itself, or is it our excessive, possessive hold that we impose on it? Most of the things we love are good in and of themselves, however, there can be a point when we start loving them only to the extent that they are useful to us. The meaning of their existence somehow needs to fit into our context, otherwise we cannot be happy. We stop seeing the people we love as the wonderful individuals that they are, but only as contributors to our purpose and happiness. A job that is meant to serve a good purpose becomes our means to gain a sense of self-worth and control. The social media that is intended to be a great way of connecting may become our security blanket, a source of our self-affirmation. We keep a tight hold on them, and by doing so we create a prison for both the objects of our affection and for ourselves. We imprison the objects in our possessiveness, and we imprison our own heart in fear of loss.
When we learn to love people and things for who/what they are, we set them – as well as ourselves – free. We can relate to the people we love for who they are, instead of treating them as the crutches that support our happiness. We can appreciate things for their beauty and virtue, instead of mere tools to satisfy our desire for possession.
Detachment does not insist on our letting go of everything we own and love. If you live in a secluded monastery away from civilization, but are constantly dreaming about the city life that you once had, then it is not detachment. On the other hand, you may live in a metropolitan city, with access to everything you will ever need, yet your heart and mind remain free from all possessions. Detachment is something that comes from within, even though it may not be apparent from without. It allows us to hold on to the people and things we love, without letting our happiness depend solely on them.
It is like keeping a light hold on a butterfly with an open hand, knowing that at any time it is free to fly away.