In this extract from our Summer 2018 issue, our meditation writer Sandy Newbigging discusses the perils of becoming overly attached to a particular outcome – and how we can break the trap.
The Attach Catch
Break the trap of attachment
By Sandy Newbigging
Attachment happens whenever you believe that being, doing or having x, y or z will make you happier, peaceful, loved, successful or some other desirable state. Being attached makes you move away from wanting certain things to believing that you need them to be OK.
Growing up, you probably learned what a good life looks like: how much money you should earn, the kind of house you should live in, the type of person you should end up with, the shape of body you should have, even the make and model of car you should drive.
Highly motivated to achieve this good life, we take our rulebook of requirements and set about doing everything we possibly can to make it all happen.
Temporary highs at best
I remember getting into a convertible I’d just bought with the advance from one of my earlier book deals. Before leaving the showroom, I sat for a few moments looking around at my new purchase. I felt great! Then I looked to my right and noticed a little scratch on the side panel and thought: Oh well, I’ll be happy when I get that fixed!
Sitting in my expensive convertible, which I’d spent years working to get, my mind gave me about five seconds of pure joy before it found something to judge negatively and resist. Can you relate to this? Without realising it at the time, I had immediately become attached to the scratch being removed before I could fully enjoy the car again. This is just one example of the many times when I inadvertently fell into what I refer to as the ‘Attach Catch’.
Left unseen, the mind can postpone your peace and happiness and be busy forever.
Attachment and the compulsion to overthink
There is a direct relationship between being attached to things being a certain way and the compulsion to overthink. Whenever your mind believes that it needs something to be OK, it becomes very active in trying to figure out how to get away from where you are now and into a more appealing time in the future.
Attachment dulls your experience. It stops the present moment from ever being good enough, leading to discontentment. Attachment leads to a very limited life in which you need to control and manipulate things to fit your rulebook of requirements. As a result, the mind is given good cause to start producing copious amounts of thoughts about how to improve your circumstances.
Quick cure: Let go of things needing to be different
Ever catch yourself thinking this classic attachment thought? I’ll be happy when…
Take a moment to consider all the things that you think you need to change, fix or improve before you can be truly happy: whether it is your job, relationship, finances, the healing of a physical condition or something else.
Then consider this simple statement in the context of your attachment: I can want this without needing it. When I invite my coaching clients and course or retreat participants to do this exercise, I see the same transformations happen time and time again. Common responses are ‘I feel relief’, ‘I feel calm’, ‘I feel free’, along with a range of other really lovely experiences. What happens for you when you are courageously contented?