Detachment and Non-attachment

Monks robe in Namkhan River, Luang Prabang, Laos

Two weeks ago, right before I started the trip to Luang Prabang, I finally completed my non-attachment class with a note from my teacher saying, “you have a lot of homework to catch up!” Oh well, just like other graduations, diploma or certifications, it introduced me to more responsibilities. One of them is to share with you.

What did I learn from this class?

  1. Non-attachment is natural, when we grew up, we made it unnatural. We chose (or chosen) to live in and create an environment where taking, owning and possessing is the ultimate goal while giving, sharing and contributing came second (if any). We taught our children to measure success by ‘how much they own’, not ‘how much they share.’ We measure relationships with how much attention we receive compared to what we’ve given.
  2. Non-attachment is social, it is burdensome if we practice it alone. I learned that many sharing-economy initiatives and business (car sharing, home sharing, etc.) are means and tools to improve meanings and reduce attachments (especially to stuffs). Doing it right, I have realized that, for stuffs at least, I need access to use more than ownerships.
  3. Non-attachment is making live easier and more meaningful. As long as we believe and practice this belief that we are part of a (small) community – neighbors, friends, families – we do not need to ‘own’ everything by ourselves. And, as far as I remember, people in the village still do this. “Can you spare me some chillies or salt?” “Sure.”
  4. Non-attachment is for the living. When I joined, some of my classmates were in the ‘dying’ phase of their life. Some with chronic illness, some with chronic relationships. But as they ‘graduated’ from the class, they felt sorry about how ‘excessive attachments to life have lowered the quality of their life and made them focus on death instead of life itself.’ I am happy to say that, despite of their conditions, they are a lot more alive than before. Some are even more alive than people around them with better conditions.
  5. Non-attachment could go along with commitment in intimate relationships. I have not personally experienced this, but looking back to my previous relationships, attachment and detachment (see below) was the number one reasons why I failed. When I translated being in love into being in ownership of my partner, it was naturally easy to take control my partner’s life. Hence, when my classmates realized that they did not own their husbands or wives, they now focus creating moments to ‘live in and enjoy the now.’
  6. Non-attachment is NOT detachment. At the beginning of the class, I struggled to internalize the concept of non-attachment. “You went too far,” was what my teacher said. Leaving families, friends and everything behind was NOT part of non-attachment. If detachment once turned me into indifferent, ignorant and selfish person, non-attachment (should) made me becoming more empathetic, caring and selfless person without clinging to ownerships.

Finally, I burned my graduation certification as my way to not attached to the class.

Do you have experience with non-attachments?

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