7 Steps to Overcoming Attachment and Letting Go with Meditation

7 Steps to Overcoming Attachment and Letting Go with Meditation via Buddhaimonia

Attachment, desire, clinging, and grasping. All of these words have been used to describe what we do when we hold on to things in an effort to find happiness and comfortable.

There definitely is an aspect of comfort on the path, because those things we cling to we don't just hold on to because we enjoy or think that they'll make us happy, we're usually afraid to let go of them as well.

So what does it mean to truly let go and live with non-attachment? That's a big topic, so I'd suggest reading this if you want to learn more about it, but suffice it to say that living with non-attachment means to live in a way that you don't grasp on to things around you in an attempt to find comfort or happiness from them, and in effect, realize true peace and happiness from letting go of those things.

It does not mean that you live separate from civilization, away from people, relationships, and any and all endeavors in a far-off jungle cave or something.

True non-attachment, true letting go, means living amidst these things just as you always have, but with a deep understanding of the fundamental truths of this world, such as our impermanence and interbeing, and therefore are able to exist in the world while not grasping on to anything in a sense of dependency (or needing anything to make us "whole").

What are some examples of attachment?

  • The intimate relationship where the two people's image of one another is more important than the person themselves.
  • The idea that you need a physical possession to be happy or at peace, and that without it, you won't find it.
  • Desiring a result or outcome, such as the idea that getting a promotion will solve all of your problems and bring you lasting happiness.

See the pattern? To truly let go and live with non-attachment means to let go of ideas. It's all mental, not physical.

You can be in that relationship while letting the other person be free, wanting only for them to be free and at peace.

You can sit in that car, and enjoy riding it, without the idea that you need the car to be happy. If you lost the car tomorrow, you would be unaffected (aside from being without a car!).

And you can plan projects, create things, and work towards goals without thinking that you need to accomplish them to be happy and at peace (and without your sense of self-worth coming from your work).

No, the true source of peace and happiness exists outside of all this, beyond the reach of these many attachments, within the mind. And the only person that can discover this for you is yourself.

It's your journey, so don't become distracted by the many "bells and whistles" of life- the errands, rushing around, the "get this done", and "get that done". Don't ever forget what's most important: having a peaceful and happy life (and helping others do the same).

Making that a reality takes work, and yet most of us put more time into busy work and think we'll be happy "one day", but it never happens. Take action and prioritize your peace and happiness. It's the only way.


Get the 7 Steps to Overcoming Attachment and Letting Go with Meditation PDF Workbook

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7 Steps to Overcoming Attachment and Letting Go with Meditation

I organized these 7 steps based on what I believe to be the best order to meditate on each topic. Keep in mind, though, this isn't set in stone, so you can mix up the steps and meditate on these topics in whatever order suits you.

Look at these 7 meditations as allowing you to gain various perspectives on attachment. Because of that, this is essentially the act of dissolving it from multiple angles.

It's like there's a force-field encircling an energy source, and you're attempting to weaken the force-field at various points to allow the light from the energy source to pierce through. The more you weaken the field, the more light pours through, and the more relief you feel.

Tackling these various perspectives allows you to weaken the field from all angles, and the collective effort is enough to provide much relief and can get you far on the path to letting go.

Ultimately, these steps work together so that you can gradually see into the true nature of attachment and realize how to let go and live more fully in peace and harmony with the world around you.

1. Meditate on attachment itself

The intention of this first meditation is to look at attachment itself very closely.

It's ingrained in our lives and in so many ways that it makes it very difficult to detect, but if you take time to contemplate on attachment, your attachments, you'll begin to see that attachment isn't "the way to happiness", but the opposite: grasping on to things is actually causing you pain and suffering and moving you away from peace and happiness (it's causing friction).

To do this, begin by thinking of all the things you've ever attached yourself to. I know...big list. Don't worry, though, you don't have to think of everything, just as much as you can bring to memory.

Next, make a list of each of these things and meditate on each and every one of them. Remember to get creative and use the examples I gave in the introduction because the things we cling to aren't always obvious to us.

One thing you should be looking for is similarities. What are the hallmarks of an attachment? A penchant for doing whatever it took to get that thing, even at the cost of your own health and immediate happiness, is often one such quality.

By looking closely at all those things you've ever attached yourself to or strongly desired you'll begin to notice the essence of attachment itself, and simply that will begin to loosen the hold it has on you.

2. Meditate on the effect attachment has on you

Now think about current attachments. Notice the way our minds build additional fantasies and images around our attachments that make them seem better or different than they are.

Take this time to really dig deep and delve into why you're attached to those things which you've noticed you're attached to now. Why did you originally go to it? What do you hope to accomplish or get from it by grasping on to it? Begin to notice how these attachments are ideas, not the thing itself.

This meditation is about seeing more clearly about what it is you're attached to right now, and that should lead to many powerful insights.

This meditation is valuable for a number of attachments, including an attachment to food and physical appearances.

For instance, with an attachment to food, you can begin to meditate on the "complete" picture of the food in front of you. Meditate on the almost unimaginable amount of work it took to get your entire plate in front of you.

Think of the preparation (farming, growing), the continued maintenance, the picking/harvesting, the processing, the packaging, the transporting, the prepping, the selling, and preparing, and the cooking.

It takes easily hundreds of hours of labor from hundreds of people to bring your food to your plate exactly as it is now. Meditating deeply on this has the ability to permanently rewrite an attachment to that food, especially if inhumane conditions were used in growing it and processing it for sale.

Whatever it is, delve deeply into the real effect the attachment has on you and on the thing itself and you'll begin to see ways in which you can break that attachment.

3. Meditate on the impermanence of all things

Next, contemplate deeply on the principle of impermanence.

It's the way of life, we all know it, yet so many of us are afraid to face that fact.

Most of us live our lives with our heads turned the other way, thinking that by doing so we can make it somehow not exist anymore. But impermanence is life, there's no escaping it.

This isn't a cause for sadness or grief, though, this is cause for celebration. To live ever aware of the impermanence of life compels us to appreciate the things around us and therefore find more joy in each and every moment of our daily lives.

To meditate on impermanence is easy: simply contemplate on the fact that nothing lasts forever. The trees, the buildings, the people, and all the other things we hold on to dearly will someday die. Think deeply about this fact, and imagine watching as these things wither away and pass.

Also, meditate on how everything lives on in a different form. If a carcass sits on the dirt, it eventually decomposes and sifts into the soil, becoming a part of it. In very much the same way, we and everything else around us live on in a different form after we pass.

4. Meditate on your death

Next, take the last meditation to the next level and meditate on your own impermanence: imagine your own death. This might sound a little intense, and it can be, which is why I put this a little higher on the list and only after meditating on impermanence for some time.

What would it be like to die and lose everything you're attached to? All your goals and ambitions, all your loved ones, and all your possessions? What would it be like to lose the very idea you have of yourself as an individual (the ego)?

Imagine your death in as much detail as you can muster, and imagine what it would be like to lose absolutely everything.

Most importantly, imagine what it would feel like to let go of all those things you cling to in an effort to create a better life for yourself: the favorable ideas of yourself, your accomplishments, your cherished memories, and anything else like it.

Take this meditation seriously, because it's one of the most powerful of the 7 steps.

5. Meditate on the interbeing of all things

Realize that nothing exists in the way you believe it does. What do I mean by this?

Think that flower exists in and of itself, independent of its environment and everything that comes in contact with it? That person? That tree? Even that idea? Think again.

Without dozens, sometimes hundreds and thousands, of other things to help support, nurture, and connect with it in some way that thing would cease to exist. Before you go thinking your attachment is this isolated thing, think again about the many things which made that thing a reality, and about the true nature of the thing you're attached to.

The truth of our interbeing is an interesting perspective to take on the idea of non-attachment because it's one that initially seems like it has little in common with it. But our attachment to things is very much connected to the truth of our interbeing in that our attachment to things is often us reaching out and trying to "complete" ourselves because we feel just that: incomplete.

Realizing your interbeing, interbeing itself as an "aspect" of the world as a whole, and how your interbeing means that you're just as "special" as anything and anyone else is also realizing your wholeness.

And that can be an altogether liberating realization.

6. Meditate on past attachments and whether they led to long-term peace and happiness or not

For step 6, meditate on past attachments and whether they resulted in long-term peace and happiness or not.

Remember, this doesn't mean think about, say, any relationship you've had. This means think about a relationship if in that relationship you thought you could never live without that person again (when you were with them). Remember, it's the attachment that's important, and physical connection doesn't mean attachment.

So, how did it go with that attachment? Only reflect on past attachments for this one, because present ones have a strong ability to blind us.

This meditation is pretty simple, and somewhat depends on you having had ample life experiences to reflect on, but is has a powerful ability to make it crystal clear how attachment leads to suffering.

Another step to this meditation, especially if you're an artist or use your creativity on a regular basis through work or elsewhere, can be to meditate on when you've done your best work and when you've struggled.

Generally, it's when our mind is clouded and we're attached to some specific idea of how we want a project to turn out that we struggle, and it's when our mind is free and empty that our best work pours out from us without effort.

7. Meditate on your attachment to attachment (Meditate on the ego)

This is the deepest level. Here, you begin to meditate on why you continuously attach yourself to things in the first place.

Understanding attachment is one thing, understanding why you continue to attach yourself to things is another. You won't necessarily need to meditate on both, but they both offer different and valuable perspectives that can be useful to you.

To meditate on your attachment to attachment, think back again to all those things which you've previously attached yourself to. Now ask yourself this question, "what did I hope to get from attaching/desiring/grasping on to that thing?" Do this for each attachment.

This will begin to reveal a common theme, and therein uncover for you a powerful insight.

I mentioned the answer to this step at least once already in the article, but I won't spoil it for you here. If I just gave you the answer you'd get no benefit. That's because it's not about the answer, it's about your realization of the answer.

Sit- on a chair, on the floor, full lotus, cross-legged-, lay down, or walk. However you do it, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you meditate on attachment and the various truths of this life (impermanence, interbeing, death) which will help to gradually break down the hold attachments have on you.

If you take the time each day to practice, you'll begin to see with greater and greater clarity. And don't do it to get something, do it because you want to stop thinking you have to get things in the first place to be content with your life. Break the chain and discover where real peace and happiness exist.


Get the 7 Steps to Overcoming Attachment and Letting Go with Meditation PDF Workbook

Take the 7 steps to go and write notes from your meditation sessions with this PDF workbook guide: