Attachment is the root of all suffering — Buddha
I remember in my twenties chasing the American dream. I went to college to get a degree in marketing. I got married and had 2.3 kids (or 4). I got a great job and was quickly promoted up the company ladder. I bought nice cars and a nice house. I bought an airplane. I lived in Switzerland for a year, then moved to Singapore for a year. I had it made.
Growing up, I always thought I was going to die when I was 33. I’m not sure why, that feeling was just always there. When I was 33 years old, I bought a new motorcycle. Three days later, I totaled it coming down a canyon. I thought I was dead, but I didn’t die.
After a couple years of depression and self-implosion, I realized that I had a second chance at life so I thought I’d spend some time to figure out what I really wanted. As I was studying the fusion of science and spirituality, I ran across the Buddhist concept of non-attachment. It was then I realized that in order to really find myself, I had to let go of who I wasn’t.
I’ve spent the last sixteen years figuring this out. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve found something that is working for me.
Laying the Groundwork
Before we can let go of these things, we get to define the who that is letting go. Who are we, really? This is the insight that shifted everything for me. This insight has grown over the past several years through meditation and mindfulness.
Some people call it the soul, spirit, higher self, things like that. I’d like to refer to it as The Observer. The Observer is our true self that observers our thoughts, emotions, and programs. The Observer is the one driving around our bodies, like we drive around our cars.
Being present and creating awareness through meditation and mindfulness allow us to create separation between the Observer and all of these other things that we have thought are us, but are merely tools that we’ve collapsed onto ourselves.
When we recognize who we are, then we can recognize who we are not. When we realize that these things are not us, we can choose to let them go.Here are ten things we can let go of to discover who we really are.
Let go of the need to control everything
Our brain wants to keep us safe. That’s its job, so it helps us feel safe by giving us the illusion of control. We like to categorize things, put them in boxes, and believe that we have some sort of control in our lives.
When we think about it, what control do we really have? Do we know with absolute certainty that we won’t die tomorrow? Do we have any control of the economy? Do we have any control of how our boss is going to act when we show up at work?
Sure, there are many things that we can direct, and maybe even control, but they are things within our sphere of influence. Spending less than you earn is a great example of this. The one thing we can control is our response to whatever happens in our lives.
Let go of the need to know everything
Our attachment to the need to know everything stems from our fear of the unknown or change. The brain wants us to believe that change is unsafe, so it’s created this fear. What’s funny is that change is the only constant. If you’re not progressing, you’re regressing, or you’re dead.
When we learn to embrace change, and learn to be okay with not knowing, we create more freedom in our lives. We lift this huge burden of having to know, and realize that it’s okay not knowing everything.
Let go of the idea that You are your body and brain
Many of us get some of our validation from our looks or how smart we think we are. When we shift our perspective to believe that we’re driving around our body and that our brain is just a great supercomputer that we can use, it allows us to treat them as servants and not as masters.
Our brain has the tasks of keeping us safe and making us efficient. The downside of this is that it fabricates so much fear to keep us safe that it keeps us small. It creates fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of what others think, and many others. When we realize that these fears are made up, we can acknowledge them and lean into them and do the things we fear anyway. This provides vast amounts of freedom.
Let go of the idea that your thoughts and emotions are You
We HAVE emotions. We are NOT our emotions. They are also just tools. They are not good or bad, like a smartphone or car are not good or bad. It’s how we choose to use them.
We can do one of three things with thoughts and emotions; we can attach to them (which amplifies them), we can act on them, or we can let them go.
When we learn to seperate from and observe our thoughts and emotions, we are in a place of power to decide to use them or to let them go.
Let go of your opinions
An opinion is a point of view based on our experience. It is not right or wrong, it’s simply our perspective. Too many times, we believe our opinions are truth, and so we fight to defend them, especially if they are drastically different from someone else.
When we can be less attached to our opinions, it opens us up to better understand a differing opinion. It allows us to expand our perspective, instead of being narrowly attached to our current point of view.
Let go of your ego
There are differing definitions of ego. For me, our ego is a made-up character, based on what we inherited in life, and our experiences. We also have different aspects of our ego. Our ego-character at work is probably different from the one at home.
Normally, we feel the need to protect our ego, this made up character. We think that it is us that we are protecting, but it’s not. When we can see our ego as separate from our true selves, we can practice non-attachment to it.
Let go of your fears
Nearly all fear is made up, and is based on the future. Think about it. Danger is real, but fear is optional. We have a common fear of what other people think of us, but we don’t really know what anybody thinks of us unless they tell us.
Fear is based on some imaginary thing happening in the future. I can’t read the future. Why do I think that my brain can?
When we realize that fear is an automated response from the amygdala in the brain, and that it’s fabricated, it makes it easier to let fear go when it raises its ugly head.
Let go of what you think you know about love
Did any of us receive a formal education in love? No. Where did we learn about it? From imperfect models; our parents, family and friends as we were growing up. If I was raised in an abusive home and you were raised in a loving home, our experiences of love would be drastically different.
Most of what we see in movies and on TV isn’t a very good example of love either.
The Greeks have four different words for love. The highest form is agape, or unconditional love. This form of love is a motivation, and may or may not have emotion attached to it. The best way that I can explain agape is that it is acceptance and understanding of ourselves and others.
Unconditional love means that I love you because of who I am, not because of who you are.
Agape love is the antidote for fear. We cannot come from love and fear at the same time. As we choose to really learn about what love is, we find out who we really are.
Let go of guilt and shame
In his book “Power Versus Force”, David Hawkins states that different emotions have different vibrational frequencies. Blame, guilt, and shame rate at very low frequencies, while emotions like love and gratitude have high frequencies.
Guilt and shamme do not serve us, and are primarily focused on our past. We cannot change our past, so why would we want to carry the emotional baggage of guilt and shame? Learning to love all of who we are means accepting that we’re not perfect and that we make mistakes. There is no benefit for carrying these heavy emotions.
Let go of labels and judgments
Labels and judgments divide. They are fear-based. They create an energetic resistance around them. They also box us or others in. They tell us who we should be, based on a category. Labels and judgments seem to be black and white, then in reality, there is a whole lot of gray in between.
When we let go of labels and judgments and accept things and people for how they are, we eliminate the division and resistance.
Bringing it All Together
If I could summarize all of this, it is to surrender to what is. It is being mindful, being the nonjudgmental present observer. It is practicing non-attachment to our thoughts, emotions, bodies, brains, opinions, egos, fears and the other things mentioned.
The best way to find out who we really are is to let go of who we are not. It’s the cutting away of who we thought we were that allows our true being to shine through, uncluttered, untethered and free.
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