Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Are You Imprisoned by Attachment?

StrawberryCupWhen you buy or receive something new, don’t you notice how a sense of attachment comes right along?  It may not be so obvious at first, but it’s always there in the background quietly grinding away at you.

It all begins with “I like” or “I want”.  But once the immediate delight wears off, attachment inevitably gives rise to difficult emotions like worry, fear, concern, or anger as you feel the impulse to maintain or protect whatever you’ve gained.

Day in and day out, we are constantly imprisoned by attachment.  Yet we seldom notice that often it’s all these material possessions that are triggering our anxiety or fear.

Despite all the hub-bub, nothing ever truly belongs to you.  Our possessions are merely on loan from the universe, and whatever we receive may vanish as quickly as it came.  The favorite new cup slips from your fingers smashing into pieces as it hits the ground.  You walk toward your shiny new car only to be greeted by a huge, unattractive scratch.

How easily can you let go when a possession is damaged or pulled away from you?  Is your day blackened by such an unexpected change?

We will never be free until we appreciate the fluidity of gain and loss.  The antidote to clinging is generosity, which you can actively practice to loosen the noose of attachment and desire.  In fact, many of the great spiritual masters of the past gave away all their possessions at least once in their lives if not more.

This isn’t an invitation to be reckless!  Just an inquiry into the depth of your attachment and the ways it may bring suffering in its stead.

Are you imprisoned by attachment?  Which possessions have a hold on you?

I’m so glad you’re here!  If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

Image:  Public Domain



The Heart of March: Empathy


Limits: The Key to a Thriving Life


  1. You know Sandra, the day before yesterday, I wrote about the Bhagavad Gita and one of the principles it teaches is this – letting go, non attachment.

    Ah, if only it were that easy. I can do it with some things, not all. I must practice.


    • I so look forward to reading your article, Vidya. I love the synchronicity. Yes, it’s not entirely easy. In fact, for most of us it’s a life long journey to fully let go of attachment. There’s the gross level of attachment and many subtle levels underneath! We can support each other in the process. A big hug for you too.

  2. Brilliant Sandra,
    Reading this Made me proud of me!
    Wow there was a time when I would be distressed when something broke I just let it go without any feelings of remorse. Onto the bin or if out is crockery or china it becomes the drainage on A put on the garden.
    Hope you are feeling healong again
    Suzie xo

    • That makes me so happy, Suzie. You are really committed to your inner work and the results are showing and shining brightly. I’m feeling much better!

  3. My wife and I are downsizing and becoming full time RV’ers. Yesterday a needy family arrrived and loaded (nearly) all of our material possesions in a trailer and drove off with them. It was a strange and freeing feeling to see it all go. I vow never to let so many things own me again.

    Dan @ Zen Presence

    • I’ve had the same feeling too, Dan, when letting go of possessions -both strange and freeing. That’s a strong vow. I wish you the very best in keeping with your aspiration and that you find true happiness and freedom along the way.

  4. I have given away almost all of the personal possessions I once clung to. I do have a few material things I keep for sentimental reasons but over the course of the last 8 years I have let go of much, and I could let go of those quite easily. In terms of possessions, I am most attached to where I live. I acknowledge that I would be reluctant to leave this home that we built with our own hands on this property that we love.

    I don’t have such a thing as a bucket list of things I think I must do or see before I pass over. I don’t have any big dreams or plans for the future. Thus hearing that I must hold onto my dreams makes me laugh out loud, for I am living my dream. I’m living day to day, hour by hour and minute by minute and enjoying the precious opportunities that being alive presents me with.

    I have already survived two medical messages telling me my time to depart was close at hand. Hence, the “what would you do if you had only 6 months to live?” memes hold little or no meaning for me. I have been there and done that twice over.

    I have been honored to be with elders throughout their dying process, so at a deeper level I know there are other attachments and aversions I need to shed myself of as I let go of my ego.

    • What a journey you have been on, timethief. Like you, I have few ambitions or dreams for this material life aside from realizing my true nature, nor a bucket list. I understand fully why you feel attached to your house and your land. I’m glad that you have that security and beauty. I think it’s quite tough to set aside all our attachments and you are already far ahead of most of us! And, as you point out there are so many subtle level of attachments to gradually wear away as we work toward shedding our egos. I appreciate the depth of your thoughts.

  5. When I was in my early twenties, I gave away or sold everything I had except the few things that I really cared about, and took off for Alaska. While I was out working on the fishing boats, someone broke into my car and took it all. I grieved most for my journals, and for some books that I had had since childhood. Since then, I have always known that, as the saying goes, “the best things in life aren’t things.” So when my favorite gold Buddha pendant (that I bought when I lived in Bangkok) was stolen in a home burglary a few years ago, I was sad, but I sent it off with a blessing for the thief who obviously needed Buddha more than I did!

    • Galen,

      What a challenging experience to lose what remained of your most precious objects. I’m moved by the profound learning you took away from that experience and how you can relate to loss now, both in a human and a less attached way. This is such an important point. On the path, we don’t necessarily lose our human tendencies, we just see them in such a bigger perspective! Thanks for this lesson.

  6. Many years ago I sold or gave away almost all my possessions. Seems I have more “things” now than I did then…but I could say good bye to them if I had to. There are a few things;, paintings my brother did, my gramma’s rocker, my mom’s tea cart, they would be hard to part with but, yes, I could let them go.

    I think when you lose all of your family then you realize things aren’t that important.

    • Hi Patricia,

      I’m inspired by your enlightened perspective. I’m sorry for your losses. At the same time, I see they have brought you a much larger view of life. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. jean sampson

    My routine is something that i am attached to, believe it or not! I am pretty much a creature of habit. And I am living in the house that I was raised in since I was 2-years old (66 now) and I would be devastated if I ever had to lose this tiny house. And I am also attached to my hubby of 49 years! So, yes, I am, unfortunately, very attached to family, routine and place. It is much better NOT to be attached!

    • Jean, I think it’s quite natural to have attachment to all that has been constant in our life. The trick is somehow to appreciate and hold all that we have as dear while at the same time not cling too tightly. It’s a delicate balance!

  8. Oh man, I needed to hear this today. I was just experiencing an attachment to money. The funny thing is, I’ve been really working on this. Every weekend I clear out another part of my house, hauling things to Goodwill (even my beloved books). And every weekend I feel so good about it! Thank you for this reminder.

    • How wonderful, Charlotte! I’m impressed by how you are clearing away the unnecessary every weekend. I do think letting go of attachments is a life-long journey as often they represent security to us. Money is right in there at the core, which can really rouse our fears! Good luck!

  9. Hi Sandra – I’ve let go of material attachments (i think lol) and don’t really cling onto objects. I’ve tried to actively reduce all my objects and possessions to less than a car-ful! If I can’t fit it all at one time in my vehicle, then I don’t need it. But not so sure if I’ve conquered non-attachment with people, experiences and life goals, desires. So yes, i can give up all my attachment to things but can I give up everything else? My thoughts, my past, my thoughts about the future? NO idea but trying to work on those:)

    • Incredible, Vishu! Getting all your possessions down to one car is a masterful feat. I’m in awe. There are so many other types and layers of attachment. I’m sure we will all be working on this ’till our last breath!

  10. Wow.. I love reading the comments…

    I no longer have attachment, maybe even to things and people “I should”. I vest full presence to that which is in my space, and I enjoy and feel gratitude for all of it; yet, I recognize that everything in my sight is borrowed and temporary. And everything has incredibly meaning, yet is not necessary. I have reverence for life and love and I tap into that as I move through World, everything and everyone is precious and sacred, and I feel that energetic connection as I create and connect. When I a most centered I feel we are all that we see so we “have it” anyway, what is to cling to?

    This does not mean I do not feel sadness upon loss, or joy upon receiving. This means that I look for the meaning in everything and practice integrating the meaning into my life. I have had multiple experiences of “finding” the thing and/or connection I thought was “lost” and receiving the thing and/or connection I thought was impossible. My heart knows infinite possibility, my mind is learning.

  11. Joy, This is so amazing! I love how you identify that you are working on two levels, the heart of infinite possibility and the mind that is still learning. As we close the gap between those two, we know true happiness and freedom. There’s a beautiful lesson in all that you’ve said here and I hope that we all will be able to actualize this!

  12. Balroop Singh

    Hi Sandra
    I like the phrase ‘imprisoned by attachment’.It reminds me of my poem which I composed when my children left my nest to pursue higher studies.
    Life has taught me that we have to let go as too much of attachment to things and people only leads to grief accompanied by worries. I am sharing my poem with you here: [hope u like it]

    Attachment comes unawares
    Slowly it creeps up
    It binds you, creates lovely bonds
    May be it is natural.

    Those shackles of tenderness
    Those soft sounds of a child
    That tender touch which heals
    And carries you into a different world.

    Those hopes, those achievements
    All for you to treasure
    You dream of eternal joy
    You surrender completely.

    Then, the unseen robber
    ‘Detachment’ descends suddenly;
    It brings anguish, aloofness;
    so painful, so heartbreaking.

    It shatters your world
    Fritters all your treasures
    However hard you hold on
    It makes all your bonds

    • This a profound poem, Balroop. I’m so honored you’ve shared it with us. The truth resonates from every line. Thank you so much.

  13. Sandra,

    Thanks for yet again giving me something to ponder. One of my favorite quotes by Byron Katie is “It’s not our thoughts but the attachment to our thoughts, that cause suffering”.

    Letting go of physical attachments is much easier than clearing away mental attachments like limiting thoughts, judgments and faulty messages. Mental attachments take up as much space and weight as physical attachments.

    For about a year now, I’ve been on a mission to free myself of some of my attachments – both physically and mentally.

    Every time I pack up a box of “things” to donate to Goodwill, The Salvation Army or Vietnam Veterans or toss an item that is broken or unserviceable I feel much lighter and less encumbered.

    I’m busy letting go of physical attachments, as well as clearing my mind of the mental attachments that hinder personal freedom and clarity. And it is so well the effort.

  14. Gladys,

    I love this quote from Byron Katie and I agree fully. It’s not even the possessions that are the problem, but our attachment too them. And, the same with thoughts, which is a more subtle and sneaky realm to work with. I truly admire your willingness to simplify on all level, physical and mental. It’s so inspiring to see how you feel it is so well worth the effort! This is an inspiration to all of us.

  15. The “attachment thing” is the critical barrier between our physical and spiritual selves. Once we’re attached to something, we are attached to the past. The more attachments we have, the more we are stuck in the past and less likely to grow and move on. I’ve seen this in myself and in others again and again. Wisdom is impossible with attachment.

    But I think it is important to recognize whether we are letting go of attachment through depression or through true letting-go. There’s a difference between not caring and letting go, and sometimes it’s subtle.

    • Well said, Meg. I wrote this post after tuning into my own attachment and fear. It’s a continual process to keep peeling back these layers of delusion that veil our spiritual self. I agree, being indifferent isn’t letting go. It’s another stuck place. Ah, there are so many intricacies to discover in this process. I appreciate your keen insight.

  16. Twice I have given away nearly everything to move to another country, and when I offered things to people their first reaction was “oh no, I couldn’t, you must keep it.” An amazing number of them actually argue very hard with me, insisting I keep things. It really drives me to despair sometimes.

    • That’s so interesting, Cynthia! I think I can understand though as I’m often hesitant to receive. It must be some weird training we have from a young age. It takes quite a lot of guts to make the moves you have. Very impressive.

  17. Sandra,

    Although I have room for improvement in letting go of things, my biggest challenge is letting go of outcomes, especially when it comes to my kids (they are adults doggone it!)

    I’m most grateful to have cyber buddies, like you and your readers, with whom I can exchange ideas and get encouragement and inspiration.

    Thanks for continuing to push me to reflect, reassess and take mindful action.

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén