August 1, 2013

How to Love Without Clinging

"Indifference looks like detachment, but it is not; indifference is simply no interest. Detachment is not absence of interest. Detachment is absolute interest, tremendous interest, but still with the capacity of non-clinging. Enjoy the moment while it is there and when the moment starts disappearing, as everything is bound to disappear, let it go. That is detachment." - Osho
I used to be very clingy. In my relationships, friendships, jobs -- I resisted change and I suffered.

Life happens. Every day, every moment, things are shifting. People are instinctively pulled towards their own experiences. When we love a person or a thing, we want to possess it. We want to be a part of its everything. But this isn't love. This is attachment.


When I was a child, my mother would be happy and playful one moment and inexplicably angry the next. She heard voices. She felt things I didn't understand. She lashed out. Always alert to her episodes, I could sense when her mood was changing. I would resist and try to pull her back to a happy place there with me. Our happy place. But I couldn't keep here there, no matter how I tried. I coudn't let go. I blamed myself.

When I was 18, my boyfriend -- my first one, the one who took my virginity -- told me that he wanted to see other girls. I said, "No, thanks." He tried to break up with me but I wouldn't let him. Over the next year or so, he dated other women, slept with other women (and me), and he pretended to be sorry. I made myself a victim. He tried to let me go and I wouldn't let him. I suffered.

I love my friends. Almost romantically. I used to be jealous of their other friends. I didn't want to be left out or forgotten. I didn't want them to explore or have experiences without me. I worried. Things were always changing so how do you know what to cling to? When to let go? How do you get comfortable with the possibility of being left behind? I created reasons to feel insecure.

Attachment gave me anxiety. It made me want to control things that I had no capacity to control leaving me powerless and sad. All the time. Why would God create a world where you fall in love with people, places and moments, only to have them taken away? A world where horrible things happen to people and you're supposed to somehow erase tragedy from your mind and go about life as usual?
"Try to be mindful, and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still." - Ajahn Chah
I'm sitting on the step watching my daughter ride her bike around the cul de sac. I watch her go outside of the circle and outside of my view. I can hear her, but I can't see her. She's with a friend. She knows her boundaries. She asked me to trust her. But still I can't see her. I resist the urge to get up and start walking towards them. I miss her. I'd feel much more comfortable with her in my sight. As I struggle with this, I see her and the friend riding back towards me. She calls out, "See Mom! I didn't go past the street sign!" Knot in my throat, I tell her, "Good job!" and I sit back down.

Peace wraps itself around me as I pray and think intentional thoughts. To love life is to love freedom and be brave. Life feels like a tightrope and then it feels like a trampoline. Steady. Bounce. Steady. Bounce. Look down. Don't look down. Fly. Twist and turn. Be still.

Every day, there is something to let go. Harsh words from people who don't know what else to say or any other way to be . The beautiful, happy family I saw at the grocery store that made me smile. The homeless, sunburned man standing on the corner with a cardboard sign. The argument about wet towels and pee on the toilet seat. The friend I still love but who hates me. Guilt, beauty, laughter, irritation -- we feel them, we cling to them, we suffer.

Love pays attention without clinging. Appreciates without possessing. It honors all feelings and experiences without being defined by them. (tweetable)
"Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, possessions - we cannot be free." -Thich Naht Hanh
I love, therefore, I let go.

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