Attachments, in the spiritual/emotional sense, are when you strongly want something to be a certain way (or not a certain way), and you have an emotional investment in it. They feel like a tension, tightness, clenching in your body and are accompanied by persistent and generally unpleasant emotions that arise whenever you think about the issue.
I recently attended a workshop called Naka Ima that greatly clarified the nature of attachments and how to release them and I want to share my findings with you, because I think attachments are one of the main things that get in the way of creating abundance.
Preferences vs Attachments
Each of us has preferences, desires, and things we enjoy. These are a natural part of us and make us unique, interesting, full human beings. I used to not be willing to let go of attachments because I thought they were me. If I let go of my attachment, what would be left? Would I want nothing? Would I be enlightened and boring, content to sit and do nothing all day, with no ambition and no desires?
Well, it turns out no. Instead, letting go of attachments frees us to calmly and peacefully create and enjoy what we truly love.
In fact, attachments usually get in the way of us getting what we want because we end up frantic, rigid, or in other emotional states that push our goal further away.
How Attachment Gets in the Way
Let’s take an example. I’ve met people who are desperate around money. They feel poor, and they are desperate to know how to make more money. This attachment of “I want more money now” often leads them to make poor decisions about money. They might sign on to a get-rich-quick scheme or make risky decisions about the money they have.
Some people are attached to control: “I don’t want to lose money”, “I don’t want anything in my business to go wrong”. So they don’t take healthy risks that would let their business grow.
Personally, I discovered a lot of attachments around people that were distracting me from focusing on my business. Some were attachments around my parents, former lovers, friends. With all my energy wrapped up there, less was left over for my business or creating a life I enjoy.
Lastly, when working with clients, attachments can create “demand energy” – you go to make a request of a client and you come off as angry, defensive, or the whole communication is murky and uncomfortable. Releasing attachments brings clarity and ease to communication by creating an inner relaxedness in you before you reach out to communicate.
Here are some concrete steps toward releasing your attachments. I highly recommend working with a spiritual counselor familiar with the issue of attachments or taking the Naka Ima course as well.
1. Identify the Attachment
Think of an issue you feel tense, angry, upset, or strained around. Identify what it is that you are specifically wanting or not wanting. Be very specific and follow the energy of your emotions to find the statement that is most emotionally charged for you. For instance you might start with “I want more money” but end up realizing that the real attachment is “I don’t want to be poor” or “I don’t want to be homeless”. This might also be an attachmen of “I want people to perceive me as a person who has it together”. Underneath our striving for money fester a great deal of attachments!
You may identify specific attachments around clients, such as “I want Susan to let me have creative control in this project” or “I really want this project to be finished by Friday”.
When you have an attachment, say it out loud. See the attachment as a distinct entity, and energy in your body. Name where you feel it – is it a clenching in your stomach? A tightness in your shoulders? Do you feel sadness? Fear?
2. Ask yourself if you are willing to let go in this moment.
You only have to worry about letting go in this exact moment. Don’t ask if you are willing to let go completely, utterly, and forever. Just focus on right now. For a moment, could you let go of that attachment? Could you be OK with whatever you want not happening?
This step is crucial. Attachments become encoded into our bodies and letting go requires releasing them in the body. Consciouslly breathe and relax as you become willing to let go. Do not will yourself to let go, simply breathe and relax. Focus on the outbreathe, forcing the air out and then letting your lungs refill. Breathe through any emotions that come up and let yourself fully feel and release them.
If you’ve successfully let go of the attachment, you will feel different. The tension will be gone from that place in your body and you will feel different in your body. There will be a sense of expandedness and openness.
As you practice it you will learn to recognize what it feels like in your body. For me, it is a softness in my belly and a feeling of safety and groundedness.
Practicing Letting Go
Letting go of attachments is something you can practice on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. It’s like riding a bike or learning the piano – as you get better at recognizing attachments and releasing them, it gets easier and easier. The result is an abiding sense of inner calm and being able to be present in the moment with whatever arises. I highly recommend it!