Is Attachment Destroying Your Happiness?

Although the word has a stark connotation, I think the general trend toward minimalism is a smart one.  You can indeed “be more with less.”

However, minimalism does not guarantee happiness.

As Gail Brenner from A Flourishing Life wisely said in her recent comment on this blog, “…it’s not stuff that is the problem, but our attachment to it. Attachments start with a sense of desire and lack.”

You may have less than 50 or 100 possessions and still be prone to attachment.  You may still suffer from worry about your possessions, however few you may have.

Attachment comes in many other guises too – to people, beliefs, emotions.

Reflection:  Is Attachment Destroying Your Happiness?

For our reflection this week, I’ve chosen the theme of attachment and one my favorite stories about the 17th century spiritual master Yukhok Chatralwa Choying Rangdrol.

“Chatralwa had a rather big, comfortable house with lots of sunlight, filled with religious objects and books.

One day a well-known lama called Rinchen Dargye visited him. After entering Chatralwa’s room, the lama kept looking around instead of sitting down. Chatralwa sharply asked him, “A-we! What did you lose?” The lama answered, ” I heard you are a Chatralwa, a hermit. But in fact, you have collected enough to be a rich man.”

Chatralwa replied, “Chatralwa means someone who has got rid of his or her emotional attachments to worldly materials or to life itself. It does not mean being poor and hankering for them, as many do.”

- from Masters of Meditation and Miracles by Tulku Thondop

I’m not suggesting giving free reign to consumption. Over-consumption is ruining our health, our peace of mind, and our planet.

But let’s take a deeper look into the root of the problem: attachment.

I invite you to take a moment to explore your own attachments today – to possessions, to people, to beliefs, to emotional states, to habits and patterns.  Do you find attachment giving rise to discontent and unhappiness? Let us know what you discover!

I’ll start off with one of my attachments.  I love books!  I love well-tuned information!  But I’m sensitive to the musty, mildew smell of older books.  Still, it’s hard to resist the urge to revisit one of my tried and true book friends, even though I know it’s not healthy for me.  It’s simply attachment rising up in one of its many forms, bring along its buddy – suffering.

You might also like:

Image by suvodeb

If you liked this article please share the link with others.  Thanks so much for your support!  With love, Sandra

 

Comments

  1. says

    Sandra,
    I’ve recently been going through all that we have in our home – and looking to rid ourselves of some of this (which has been successfully going on now for many weeks). I wonder, though, am I choosing those things which I feel no attachment to? And if so, perhaps it’s time to take a step back, and really look at where I feel attachment, and then dig into that a bit deeper.

    Okay, and to take this a bit deeper – I think that my possessions are not where I hold the greatest attachment. So, I’ll also be looking into beliefs and habits, also (which feels a bit more uncomfortable for me…which leads me to believe that’s a good place for me to “be”).

    Sandra, once again – thank you. Thank you for helping me to go deeper in my own journey…

    Much peace and love,
    Lance

    • says

      Lance,
      Your comment has really touched me. I’m moved by how deeply you are working with this reflection. There are so many layers to unwrap on our journey to wholeness! It’s easy to get boxed in by our own habits and beliefs – even the good ones. It can be uncomfortable indeed, but also so freeing. I’m working with some of my own beliefs right now, and it’s been a scary but liberating process. I see the possibility of living life in the flow. I’m not there yet, but that’s what beckons me.

      Thank you again Lance for sharing so profoundly.

  2. says

    Morning, Sandra.

    This was an great thought-starter. The concept of an attachment having too much control over one’s life is an excellent one, particularly as it applies to non-possessions. We tend to think of getting rid of stuff we don’t need, but not beliefs or attitudes.

    Of course, it is those beliefs and attitudes that cause the over-consumption, or unhappiness with one’s lot in life. Attachments to what once made us happy but no longer do, are what keep us from moving forward. You have made that point very well.

    Have a blessed day,
    Bob

    • says

      Good morning, Bob,

      You’ve really articulated the main point beautifully – “it is those beliefs and attitudes that cause the over-consumption.” The whole process of decluttering can be such a powerful one because it can begin to show us where our attachments are if we are willing to look. I’m glad you found this a thought-provoker! Wishing you a blessed day too.

  3. says

    Sandra, I’m with Lance and Bob. So much to ponder. Like Lance, I’m also getting rid of stuff these days and as I do I’m making a mental evaluation of it’s worth – or perhaps, my attachment to it. All of this makes me think of my blog, my work and what attachments might be hidden there that are tied up with success, people pleasing, flattery – all the ego-feeding rewards we can become attached to that hinder our true path and our authentic road to enlightened living. Thank you for opening this can of worms – I like these worms and I think I’ll chew on them for a while. Eww, bad metaphor.

    • says

      Katie, I’m so glad you raised this point of all the ego-pleasing rewards that we become attached to. I’ve also been reflecting about that in terms of my blog. Hope for praise and fear of blame (or rejection) can be such a powerful force in our life. It’s a really good one to visit when we look at our motivation for anything we do in our life. Thanks for sharing so deeply.

  4. says

    Agree with the concept here Sandra. Our attachments to things can create anxiety when the “thing” is missing or lacking.

    To be honest, I think I’m too attached to routines. When things don’t follow an expected pattern, I do feel myself becoming anxious. By surrendering to the flow, my happiness is not as shaken.

    alex

    • says

      Alex,

      That’s a very interesting observation about routines. I myself get easily attachment to routines. There are so many subtle ways for attempting to build safety into our lives, most of the time we don’t even see them. I like your willingness to surrender to the flow. I find it’s the best way to release the anxiety.

  5. says

    Hey Sandra, smart post. Attachment is definitely one of the major causes of our suffering. The more we have, the more we have to worry about, and the more we have to lose. However, I think someone can “own” a lot without having to attach to it. In fact, sometimes the more flexible we are with our property, the more wealth we generate and spread. Ultimately, I think minimalism is a mindset and not a quantity.

    • says

      Hi Steven,

      I like your idea of how being flexible with our property, the more wealth we generate and spread. It can definitely be a sign of less attachment and more relaxed ease. I agree with the idea that minimalism is a mindset, not a quantity. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Amato says

    Hi Sandra,

    Very inspiring post. I enjoyed the Yukhok Chatralwa Choying Rangdrol story!
    I wish you a beautiful week.

    • says

      Hi Amato!

      So nice to “see” you! I really love this story too. It just shows how we ultimately need to turn everything on its head so to speak. Thanks for your good wishes.

  7. says

    First of all, I think like Chatralwa that detachment doesn´t have to mean getting rid of all the stuff we have. There is a lot of stuff that simplify our life and the secret is to use them without getting dependent on them. For me the attachments are mostly on the mental plane. I think I need to explore my habits a bit more to find out which ones doesn´t serve me. This post triggers me to do that. Thank you for making us think about our attachments Sandra.

  8. says

    Hi Tom,

    It’s interesting to see how attachments on the mental plane are coming up for several people. I like the way you highlighted the secret of not getting dependent on what we do use to simplify our life. Good luck with your explorations!

  9. says

    Hi Sandra!
    You start with a thought that I often ponder about. The minimalist trend put a lot of emphasis on how much we have instead of how attached you are to the things you have. You can have just one bowl and be extremely attached to it or have 100 bowls and not not care about any. That being said, having less as the minimalists propose, can help us learn to let go and detach from the many items we possess.
    And yes, attachment to thoughts, emotions, and so on can be more destructive than attachment to things.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, as usual. :) Loving blessings, sweetie!

  10. says

    Hi Andrea,

    Thanks for your lovely insight. The minimalist trend is definitely giving us food for thought in a positive way! I like the way you are embracing the approach of minimalism as part of a process of learning to let go of attachments. This is so positive. We have to let go of everything when we die, so it doesn’t hurt to get in a little practice now. Thanks for your comment.

  11. says

    I am moving for the first time in 8 years this week. I have not had a problem at all with attachment to things. It has felt totally liberating to get rid of a bunch of stuff and really lighten the load even though I never was a pack rat.

    I am not that attached to people either. I AM attached to things…I call them my “must do’s.” They are a series of things I feel I absolutely must do every day. All of them are good for me…exercise, meditate, breathing exercises, voice exercises, manual dexterity exercises, etc. These can be terribly burdensome and limiting as much as actual items. In some ways, I think, items would be easier because you can just get rid of those.

    With moving and just life going forward, I am having to let go of some of my “must do’s” and relax and revise others. It has been difficult, but good.

  12. says

    Hi Debbie,

    Thanks for the peek into your transition and liberation! So happy you feel lighter. I find it very interesting to hear that you are not that attached to people either. I can sometimes tend to be that way as well and I wonder why that is. Let me know if you have any clues. Of course, I am attached to some.

    I’m glad to see that you give yourself all the time you need to heal although the “must-dos” can feel burdensome at times. People are often reluctant to give to themselves in this way. I’m inspired to hear how fully you invest in your healing. Good luck with your relaxing and revising!

  13. says

    Hi Sandra,

    What a surprise to see my comment quoted here! Thank you for bringing up this essential topic.

    The consensus seems to be that attachment to habits, emotions, and beliefs is more of a problem than attachment to things. I notice I’m attached to comfort – enough to eat, a safe and cozy place to live.

    Any attachment offers an opportunity for exploration. Just dropping it is not always easy. But investigating how the attachment protects us or keeps us from experiencing painful feelings can be very useful. Awareness of how an attachment operates sets the stage for it losing its grip.

    Once we are no longer attached, everything becomes a celebration. When we don’t need anything – beliefs, things, or habits – we get to enjoy what is already present.

    I always am enriched by reading your posts.

    Love to you,
    Gail

    • says

      Hi Gail,

      Isn’t it interesting that the sense is more of attachment to habits, emotions, and beliefs than material possessions? I’m not surprised because I’m so fortunate to have so many remarkable people visit my blog.

      I think we are probably all attached to comfort! That too can get us in trouble when pain or illness comes our way or other uncomfortable circumstances. Life is such an interesting stage for learning.

      I love your idea of celebration and enjoying what is present in the moment. Thanks for expanding on your thoughts about attachment.

  14. says

    Hi Sandra,
    I’ve moved now 15 times in my life and each time I get rid of tons of stuff I collected I don’t really need, including books! (I love books too) And, each time I go out and buy more things and fill my house up again. I plan on NOT doing that this time.

    I agree – it’s not the number of things we own, but our attachment to them. I’m not all that attached to my things as I find when I give them away through donation or to friends/family I feel such a sense of freedom and lightness afterward that I realize how little value they were to me in the first place.

    I think a lot of us just have too much. It’s overwhelming and we really can’t appreciate everything we have that way. Simplicity and living with enough instead of excess is the way I plan to go in the future.

    Thanks for this very thought-provoking post.

    • says

      Hi Angela,

      Sounds like a very positive new direction and I wish you well in the transition.

      I’m glad you mentioned how overwhelming it can be to have too much stuff. As I’ve been reflecting on this topic, I’ve come to realize that overwhelm is one word that I associate with have excess stuff. I think we are all different, but I personally feel too much is to much for me to manage well. Others really enjoy making a cozy and inviting home. So much comes down to really knowing our true self.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  15. says

    This reminds me of a great line from the movie Harold and Maude. In the movie, Maude (played by Ruth Gordon) is an eccentric older woman who pretty much goes around taking whatever she wants, including people’s cars. Harold is intrigued but doubtful about her practices. He challenges her, suggesting that her actions upset people. Maude shrugs him off with her reply, which goes something like this (from faulty memory). “Oh, I just consider myself a reminder, here today gone tomorrow. So, don’t get attached to things!” As Harold follows her into her home, she adds, “Now with that in mind, I don’t mind collecting a few things….” Her home is filled with odds and ends.

    In another scene, Harold and Maude are sitting by some water. He gives her a special present. She admires it and then promptly tosses it in the water. When he looks at her aghast, she quips, “Now I’ll always know where it is.”

    Thanks for reminding me of one of my very favorite movies!

    • says

      Hi Galen,

      That’s one of my favorite movies too though I don’t recall these wonderful details like you. You’ve inspired me to put it on my weekly movie list. We watch just one movie a week. I loved these snippets you’ve shared from the movie. Thank you so much! There are so many lessons to learn around attachment and letting go, that’s for sure.

    • says

      Hi J. D.

      I can imagine how that phrase sings to you since the essence of your blog is distilling the wisdom of great thinkers and doers. Thanks for making me smile once again.

  16. says

    Moving to another country was a real eye opener as to how attached a person can be to things. As a child, I didn’t have much. So I became attached to the things I did have, and cared for them quite well. As I aged and gathered more things, I became very attached to everything. It wasn’t until I suffered a loss, of a friend, of a piece of jewelry, of a pet, that I learned to detach, because of the emotional pain these losses caused. When moving, I was able to leave alot of things behind, friends behind, and family behind, without much struggle. But Christmas ornaments were a hardship. I couldn’t just let them all go. I chose my favorites and brought them along.

    • says

      Terry,

      This is such an interesting glimpse into your life story. It draws out the point that there’s a fine line between appreciation and attachment. Taking care of our things well is a positive quality in that it shows our appreciation for what we do have. I am sorry for the suffering you have experienced due to attachments. It sounds though like a profound learning experience. I’m glad you were able to take your favorite Christmas ornaments along and I hope they bring you great joy this holiday season.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  17. says

    Sandra, what a brilliant and thought provoking post. Attachment is one of those things can creep up on us and we may not even be aware that it has taken up residency in our mids and emotions.

  18. says

    Aileen, This is such a great point – the way attachment can sneak up on us. That’s been my experience too in some situations. I didn’t realize how I attached I was until I had to move on and then it became clear! Thanks for raising this angle on the question.

  19. says

    How Timely- we spent Sunday clearing out lounge dining room as new carpet was being laid on Monday. i now have 2 rooms that are loaded with what came out of this very large space- I am like sitting here at my desk and wondering how much we will put back in- wonderful being in a space free of clutter- we also realize we don’t need so much of we have- already have several boxes to go out
    namaste
    Suzie

  20. says

    Hi Sandra,
    I don’t know how I released attachment a few years ago, but when I chose to live mindfully present I released attachment. When I moved onto the boat, my living space is limited so I had to carefully choose what to surround myself with. If anyone would like what I have, it is theirs..I recognize the natural flow and all I have is part of that flow–including the boat or anything in my ‘possession’.
    I am always saying *this* is my favorite..which is something each moment.. I delight fully in the moment.
    As far as people and relationships, it is tricky to understand..I love fully..my children are special angels, my friends light my heart, I *love* deeply..however, no one is “mine”..a label attached to describe feelings. When you are in the moment with me I delight in that moment..when you are not in the moment, you are in your own independent of me so I am not in it with you. Very hard to describe in words, those that know me see it in action. I will add..many people are worried about not being ‘missed’..if a feeling of miss happens I release it and transform it to love..

    • says

      Joy,

      You description of being in the flow is so incredibly beautiful. There is so much joy and wisdom in your way of being. I see all these tiny miracles floating around you. I am basking in the contrast of letting go and being fully in the moment. They are one in the same, really but simply different colors. I’m so happy you came by to share this inspiration with us. Thank you!

  21. says

    The less we have the better. But at the end of it all, this ideology of minimalism, is perspective. Nothing more than that. For a minimalist can be unhappy while a materialistic person can glee with joy. Just cause you have less means nothing more than just finding happiness in what’s less. Same thing for the latter.

    As long as we organize our thoughts with greatness, we live great lives and thats all that truly matters. How much you have is irrelevant. Great post. Made me think!

    • says

      Jonathan,

      I like your clear perspective! This is really nice: “we organize our thoughts with greatness, we live great lives and that’s all that truly matters.” I’m happy the post got you thinking. Thanks for your thoughts!

  22. says

    Sandra,

    Thanks for such a thought-provoking post as evidenced by all of the wonderful comments it inspired.

    I admire you for studying meditation for so long and having found an innerspring of happiness, as you point out on your About page.

    When I set out to write my book on happiness I thought I would be sharing my thoughts and findings with the world. I’ve discovered, instead, that my book was the door to discovering more about myself through lessons that have unfolded during this ensuing year.

    I learned about you and your blog from A-List Blogging, and am delighted I did.

    Thanks for your dedication to helping us reach healthier and happier lives through simple wisdom.

    • says

      Welcome Flora,

      It’s so nice to connect with you. I also appreciate your dedication and the message of your book and blog. The world needs people like you!

      I am struck by your experience after publishing your book – “…my book was the door to discovering more about myself through lessons that have unfolded during this ensuing year.” I too continue to be on a journey of discovery and there are so many lessons I’m learning about myself each and every day. I am far from perfect. The inner spring is always there for all of us, but there are plenty of times when I forget that too. Nevertheless, we can enjoy the journey together and continue to remind each other when we have moments of forgetting.

      Thanks so much for your comment. I really appreciate it.

  23. says

    Hi Sandra Lee,

    Nice article to make us stop and think. I am one that does throw things away. However I do have an attachment to things that have memories woven into them. An example would be something from my mother and father or a favorite Aunt or Uncle.
    Now I am going to go double check myself, to make sure that I am not over using my attachment.
    Thanks again,
    Debbie

  24. says

    Hi Debbie,

    Thanks so much for sharing yourself in this genuine way. We all are human and have attachments to so many things and especially in our relationships. Letting go of attachment is a life long process in my eyes. I appreciate your willingness to double check yourself! That’s remarkable. Stay well.

  25. says

    Wonderful post.

    When we let go of attachments and expectations, Spirit frees us to evolve, change and grow, from tiny ripples of peace and acceptance, to tidal waves of love and compassion.