Happiness leads to attachment and desire (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, 2: 6). We attach ourselves to finite appearances, be it to the moments lived with a good friend or hard work done for a project. This ultimately causes us to have desire for rewards or simply a desire for continuous existence of good things in our lives. However, this cannot always be, and thus, if we attach ourselves to impermanent things in life then we suffer eventually.
On the other hand, being non-attached involves living life fully and yet not attaching ourselves to anything transitory. This is different from detachment, which, according to Joseph Goldstein (1994), implies a distancing from experience. Non-attachment is simply not holding on, not grasping. This leads to a more authentic and thus fulfilling life since it frees one from the ups and downs, which result from happiness, consequent attachment, and often-unfulfilled desires. In practicing non-attachment, one works for the pleasure of work (not for its rewards). In a broader sense, non-attachment is not just about ‘not holding on’; it is also about using the mind, body, and life energy as instruments for the expression of one’s inner light.
In this article, I will talk about how being non-attached can make the journey towards your goals joyous and fruitful. I will use an example of how being non-attached with one’s body can actually facilitate losing weight. The example will help those of you who wish to lose a few pounds as well as anybody who wishes to learn about non-attachment.
Let us begin with the motivation behind losing weight. Many of us want to lose weight because we are attached to our bodies and wish to look more beautiful. Such a motivation comes from being attached to one’s physical appearance. Attachment to one’s body leads to identification with it. You then think you are your body and not a soul who has a body. This is ignorance because, after all, physical beauty is impermanent. You are eventually going to get old, and being attached to your body will then cause you to suffer. Furthermore, what is beautiful is generally dictated by the unrealistic standards of beauty set by the media and society, which generally shames fat. However, this is not a proper motivation for losing weight. The standards of beauty set by the media and society are unhealthy and thus subscribing to them is not good for you and your body. A proper motivation for losing weight is to be bodily healthy, and being bodily healthy is important because your soul resides in your body. This is why the process of losing weight must consist of a healthy diet and a healthy amount of physical workout — nothing in excess or in deficiency. You must be non-attached with your body and yet care for it because at one level you understand that you are not your body while at another level, you understand that it is an instrument given to you for the expression of your inner light.
All of this is not to say that one must cease to appreciate physical beauty. In fact, focusing away from physical beauty and working on inner beauty leads to a natural manifestation of divine beauty on the physical plane. Say, through the light in one’s eyes, health of one’s curves, and elegance of one’s movement. This is a starkly different kind of beauty than the beauty which comes from using makeup or having a certain figure. It is a kind of beauty that comes from within and shows itself in one’s body.
Moreover, non-attachment facilitates the journey of weight loss by freeing you from the bondage of the past and the future. Through non-attached practice, action becomes its own reward. Thus, exercising and eating a healthy diet become their own rewards. It is then possible to find joy in every moment of the exercising regime and cooking process, rather than only at the time one sees a drop in one’s weight. You then make your body come alive through dance and play, rather than subject it to the torture of severe workout regime. The progress might be slow, but it will lead to a lifestyle shift. A lifestyle that helps you live a healthy life.
Throughout you must remember that being non-attached does not mean not caring. You do not care about the results of your action but you do care about your action. You care about your body and what goes into it. In fact, if you are dieting, it is recommended that you experiment with the food you eat. You of course will be allowed to eat only limited things, but whatever you eat, relish it thoroughly, discovering the divinity in food and cooking. You must also cook dishes for others and share your joy!
Thirdly, non-attachment makes you more equanimous, i.e. equal to the results. Thus, you do not get too happy on positive results or feel too dejected upon getting negative results. It helps you go on the path steadily and smoothly.
The factor that often can obstruct the journey is a combination of others’ perception of you in relation to your practice and your attachment with them. Others who obviously do not know that you have been taking the practice of losing weight as a non-attached practice will expect you to be happy or sad about the results, and your attachment to them may lead you to be swayed — attached and non-equanimous. This can make you fluctuate on your decision of losing weight in a non-attached manner. However, the other way of looking at this obstacle is to take it as an opportunity to learn about a non-attached yet loving way of relating with others, since in relationships too attachment leads to suffering. You will soon realize that in order to truly practice non-attachment, you have to first and foremost detach from thinking like a little creature that defends one’s self, seeks happiness for itself, asserts itself. Thus, it is important to detach from the small creature consciousness, which gets attached to other people and the practice itself.
You will eventually learn that in the long run being non-attached makes it easy to excel in multiple pursuits. Initially, one begins with consciously practicing one thing. After some time, one incorporates it in one’s daily routine. This becomes easy with non-attachment because the practice is devoid of the turmoil caused by attachments. Over a period of time, you will be able to cast this activity from the foreground to the background, and thus, consciously work on integrating other goals. The ultimate goal, of course, being to use mind, body, and life energy to express one’s inner light.
Goldstein, J. (1994). Insight meditation: The practice of freedom. Boston: Shambhala.
Patañjali. (1974). Patanjali’s Yoga sutras: With the commentary of Vyâsa and the gloss of Vâchaspati Miśra. New York: AMS Press.
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