By Todd Vickers
How can we say ‘yes’ to life and not be attached to the people, things, events and outcomes. Non attachment is a vague notion that wrongly suggests that we could be attached in the first place. Even our own body changes happen outside of our control and every particle in the body is different from what it was a moment before. ‘Our’ livers, as important as they are, do not consult us about their job, much less the needed symbiotic organisms that live in our gut. Now do we think we can really control other people, places and things? At best we influence and change things with whatever power we can assert, but often the outcomes are surprising and unintended. Many of the worst tyrants caused enormous misery for themselves and others but in they end they were non attached.
If we realize the people, things and events around us are not (and cannot be) our identity, then we can live and enjoy and lose those things without it being a threat to identity. Identity is just a mental schematic of self, a useful blueprint, nothing more.
When we hear non attachment we may imagine an ascetic that renounces the world. Some of us may think of Buddha discussing the impermanence of all things, but how does that help us? Let’s not get lost in the concepts about non attachment and miss the point as I would argue the ascetic does. Even Buddha let go of being an ascetic to have his awakening. If one identifies themselves with the people, things and events in their life than renouncing those things just creates another event with which to identify oneself. Now the new identity is being someone who is non attached.
There is a difference between saying yes to life and being identified with people, beliefs or with the coming and going events.
Those events neither prove who we are or define who we are because we could easily be doing something else. No good or bad experience forces us to identify ourselves with it. Those things including our own bodies have changed all our lives.
The benefit of this realization is we can say either yes or no to the events of life without it becoming a threat to a mental sense of self. No matter how hard we try, identity slips away like smoke on the wind. Now we can explore our choices in a whole new way, without reference to an identity that is of less substance than a soap-bubble. Now we can love without trying to rob others of their choices to protect an identity that we can’t find, even if we look for it.