The Zen Habits Guide to Letting Go of Attachments

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Leo Babauta, in his recent article The Zen Habits Guide to Letting Go of Attachments, makes the point that most of our pains and struggles stem from attachments. This is something that the Buddha discovered nearly two thousand years ago and it’s a realization that is still completely relevant today.

We can see this truth in many common difficult situations. When we worry, we’re attached to a desired outcome. When we’re frustrated with somebody, we’re attached to an idea of how we want them to be. When we put things off, we’re attached to pleasant circumstances.

The answer, as Leo points out, is simple. Just let go of attachments! Well, that’s something easier said than done! Here are five simple practices he suggests to help you along:

  1. Mindfulness Meditation: It’s possible to see meditation as the repetitive practice of giving up attachments. Your mind wanders, “attaching” itself to positive or negative thoughts and your job is to bring it back, time and again, to the present moment. It’s almost as though you are developing a muscle, one that you will be able to use in other areas of your life.
  2. Compassion: You can deepen your meditation by wishing for an end to the suffering of other human beings. This exercise is wonderful at fostering feelings of compassion. And it’s this compassion that enables you to transcend your own “story” and loosen the grip that your attachments hold on you.
  3. Interdependence:  There’s a simple exercise called “metta meditation.” It involves extending feelings of goodwill to people in your life, both those you get on with and those you don’t. A result of this practice is a deep sense of interconnectedness.
  4. Acceptance: The culmination of these three practices is a sense of everything being OK. And it’s this acceptance that lies at the basis of the relinquishing of one’s attachments. The practice is to bring this feeling of contentment into your daily life.
  5.  Expansiveness: Finally, based on the foundations of mindfulness, compassion, interdependence and acceptance, we can rest in the expansiveness of the present moment, in all it’s flawed beauty.
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