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The Blessings of Non-Attachment


1 John 2:15

Do not love this world or the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.

There is a Taoist parable of an old Chinese farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

“Maybe yes, maybe no,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe yes, maybe no,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe yes, maybe no,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors praised the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe yes, maybe no,” said the farmer.

The moral of this story demonstrated the power of another virtue – that of non-attachment -- that no event, in and of itself, can truly be judged as good or bad, fortunate or unfortunate, and has no effect or control over us. No event or circumstance defines us but is part of a larger whole, and only time will reveal the whole story.

But instead of waiting for the events to play out, we often become stuck emotionally, closing our hearts, relying on our own limited perceptions for direction and understanding. We stop listening to the unlimited voice of Spirit. It is how we react emotionally that clouds our minds. In our efforts to fend off the resulting self-induced morass of feelings from an encounter, our minds create various attachments: inner prisons, inner wars, tensions, habits, erroneous associations, and conflicts which impede our ability to express Christ’s light.

Emotions emit a vibrational energy field that affects people around us. We have experienced this; we sense someone’s mood before we even speak with them. Life events are influenced by suppressed and repressed emotions. Our anger attracts angry thoughts and angry people into our lives. Love and peace attract loving and peaceful thoughts, events, people, and pets into our lives. Studies show that even plants and bacteria react to the energy of our emotions. This is why, generally, people who carry the consciousness of apathy bring poverty circumstances into their lives, and those with a prosperity consciousness bring abundance into their lives.

Non-attachment is defined as the state of mind where we are not emotionally attached to or desirous of philosophies, things, people, or worldly concerns; we allow things to pass and do not hold on to anything that happens in life.

Two other qualities fall under the umbrella of non-attachment. A sister to non-attachment is acceptance, which is acknowledging and embracing what is happening in the present moment without judgment or attachment to the outcome. Acceptance means being mindful of our feelings and thoughts without getting wrapped up in them or trying to change them.

Then there is emotional surrender, which is a state of being where we release our resistance to emotions and allow ourself to feel them fully. It involves accepting our emotions as they are, without trying to change or control them; we don’t control our emotions and allow them to flow freely through us. Although slightly different in meaning, I will use these words interchangeably as to how we manage our emotions.

The word ‘non-attachment’ did not exist in Biblical times, but it was a lesson Christ taught. In Luke 18:20-24, Jesus was asked by a ruler how to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered, “You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

It is hard because of our emotional attachments to the things of the world. We allow things, beliefs, and people to bring us value, to define us. We believe we need them to be whole. Letting go of the world is being aware of a feeling, letting it come up, staying with it, and letting it run its course without wanting to make it different or do anything about it. It means simply to let the feeling be there and to focus on discharging the energy behind it.

Non-attachment involves letting go of the temptation to control or resist the feelings we experience. It is resistance that perpetuates the feeling. When we give up battling the feeling, and not try to modify it, whether it is fear or guilt or anger, it becomes lighter and weaker in energy. A feeling that is not contested disappears as its energy dissipates.

As we surrender, focus on the feelings, not the thoughts. It is the feelings that give birth to the thoughts. Thoughts are merely the mind’s attempt to explain the presence of the feeling. Release the feeling and the thoughts involving that feeling will also subside.

It is true what Christ said, “You cannot serve two masters…God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Mammon refers to riches that are exalted as an object of slavish servitude. Mammon also describes our ego operating through money: It causes us to bow down to money, worshiping it. We replace God with money, wealth, real estate, power, pride, our intellect or any of the other trappings of the world by allowing them to rule every aspect of our lives.

But most importantly, Mammon also refers to any worldly thing, concept, person, or circumstance that we feel we need to experience life at its fullest. Mammon is the feelings that we cling to around money, fame, power, control, our theology, belief system, family, and institutions. If we put anything at all before God, we are not practicing non-attachment.

Christ tells us in Luke 14:26 and 33, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Theologian Meister Eckhart translates that verse this way: “our Lord says: ‘No one hears my word or my teaching unless they have first abandoned their self’ (Luke 14:26). For if we are to hear God’s word, we must be wholly detached.”

Christ does not literally mean to hate our parents or children, as we understand the word today. What he means is that we cannot put them before God. We are to love God, each other, and ourselves, in that order. It is explained a little more clearly in Matthew 10:37. “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Non-attachment requires trust, awareness and of course, practice, as in all other virtues. But like most folks, none of us are without constant opportunities to practice surrender. While watching the news and seeing all the crazy things happening, we just need to be aware of our feelings. We watch our emotions and allow them to be. We watch the anger and disappointment rise within us, unimpeded. We don’t control it or try to contain it. We are not the anger we see; we just watch it.

As the emotion spins around we allow its presence, we become non-attached to it; we don’t claim it. That very acceptance of it allows its energy to dissipate. Soon it is gone, and we feel the relief of its weight lifted from our hearts. While we are watching it, we envision the Light of Christ surrounding it, filling it with Love. We have no desire to alter it with this Love; it is just there.

This is non-attachment. We are not attached to the results of what we observe on the television. We see the actions and decisions, and we just let them go. They have no affect or influence over us.

The blessings of non-attachment are numerous. First physically, as we release negative emotional energy our bodies release stress and begin functioning optimally. It also increases pain control and reduces pain. Non-attachment reduces depression and pain-related anxiety. It increases our sense of well-being, improves our satisfaction with relationships.

Non-attachment can lead to a clearer mind, a better mood, more mental space for the things we can control (as opposed to the things we can’t), less fear of the loss of control, and less fear of change. Non-attachment is also associated with reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as increased empathy, kindness, and wisdom.

When we practice non-attachment, we can better adapt to unexpected changes, form deeper relationships, and feel a deeper sense of self-worth. Non-attachment allows us to see that we’re more than our accomplishments or material goods. We are constantly growing and changing and are interdependent with the world around us.

Some of you have been waiting for this phrase, so now I offer it to you… I pray that we can “Let go and let God”. I pray that we can follow the instructions in Ephesians 4:31. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.

It is my prayer that we lovingly let it go – let the old go, the destructive and counter-productive thoughts, feelings, habits, attitudes, preconceived ideas, and limited perspectives, and instead cling to the good and perfect plans of God. I pray that we become non-attached to the world and open our hearts and minds to embrace the love, joy, peace, health, and abundance of God.


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