Non-Attachment to Views

Lessons of Aloha

Posted August 12, 2011 by John E. Riley,

This summer I had the privilege of participating in the Ministerial Intern program at Unity Church of Hawai’i. During the process I was immersed in all aspects of the church: from planning the Sunday worship service to serving meals to the homeless on Waikiki beach. The program is an incredible gift for those on the Path. I am deeply grateful for my time there.

Arriving home I was asked “What is the one thing that you came away with?” The answer: the experience of the joy and compassion that comes from nonattachment.

Now, nonattachment is not the same thing as detachment. Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk, describes nonattachment as equanimity, nondiscrimination, even-mindedness and letting go. He says “We shall learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to others’ insights and experiences”

Stepping away from my every-day life, I learned to hold my ideas, my views with ‘open hands.’ I let go of the need to be right, the need to be appreciated. I was gentler with myself. I was able to soften what was ridged on the inside. What I discovered was an inner joy and greater compassion for those around me.

On my flight home, I thought about how I would ‘re-enter’ the world that I left behind. I wanted continue my practice of nonattachment. However, it is not always easy to live this way. Sometimes we experience difficulties with people or situations. Here are three tools to help us along the path:

  1. Give our emotions a voice – When things get tough, when we feel the anger, frustration, fear arise do not stuff them down, give them a voice. Look behind the emotion to see what is driving it. Write it down. Talk to a trusted friend or therapist about it. Use non-violent communication to help us address the upset with the other person, if needed.
  2. Stop telling stories – repressed emotions give rise to our story telling. Take a page from Byron Katie’s The Work and ask yourself “Is it true?” “Can I absolutely know that it’s true?” “How do I react when I believe the thought?” “Who would I be without the thought?”
  3. Forgive – Forgiveness is an inner process of letting go. Say one of Catherine Ponder’s affirmations to yourself. “I fully and freely forgive you. I loose and release you and I let you go to your good in peace.”

As we learn to approach each other with nonattachment, we have the opportunity to bring love, compassion and joy into our world.

About Still Water Sangha of MN

We are a community, formed with enthusiasm and joy, practicing Mindfulness and Meditation together in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. We meet on Monday nights from 7-8:30pm in a private home in Stillwater, Minnesota.
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