Can We Love Freely without Attachment?

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If we’re in love, and we’re afraid of losing our partner—are we coming from a place of fear or love? Can we love somebody without being afraid?

I wrote this in early September to find out.

Five months ago, I wrote a raw and emotional article called “I’m Only Woman When There Should be Man as Well.”

It was the beginning of me opening up to the possibility of relationship again after being mostly-single for over two years, since leaving my son’s father.

That article sparked a series of articles as I dove head first into my own relationship with men, desire and relationship.

With several long-term relationships under my belt—none of which had stayed the distance—I wanted to investigate and release any patterns getting in the way of a clear, strong, present relationship.

Seems setting a clear intention and focusing on what one wants, works.

In June, I met a man who wowed me, in the hugest way. He was sexy. He was intelligent. He was witty. And he had presence. I walked away from that party with a head full of fantasy and projection.

Determined to break the patterns of a lifetime, I didn’t act on my whirling thoughts, instead choosing to stay focused on what was actually happening. That was what I responded to—the reality in front of me, not the fantasy in my head. It was challenging. I just wanted to take control and make things happen and flesh out my fantasy.

It was a deep practice in letting go, and trusting.

A month after that first meeting, at a dinner party I was hosting, this man followed me into the kitchen and kissed me. So it began—the most honest, authentic and deeply present relationship I’ve ever experienced. There was no doubt between us, just clarity. He saw me. I saw him. That was it.

But he had plans to leave New Zealand on August for a five month trip—Australia, the United States, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand.

We only had four weeks together before he was due to fly out. We made the most of it; and by the last week, he’d decided that he didn’t want to be gone that long anymore. Travel plans were hastily rearranged, new tickets bought and a new return date arrived at September 28th.

Our relationship began with an opportunity for me to break old patterns around fantasy and projection; with this time apart, I’ve discovered more opportunities to change old patterns of relating.

Love is a tricksy thing. It’s addictive. Seductive. Maddening. The object of our affection becomes all consuming. It takes us out of ourselves and we can fixate our source of happiness on something external to ourselves. When he gets back, then I’ll be happy. He’s not here, so I’m sad.

This week in particular has been difficult. I’ve felt frustrated and irritated and down right angry. Where the hell is he and why isn’t he here with me?

I’ve felt like a little girl pouting and stamping her foot. I want and I want it now!

Feeling into this energy, I laughed. Who was this little girl? Not that it mattered. I saw her, and couldn’t play that role anymore with any seriousness.

Later, other thoughts arose. What if he didn’t come back? What if something happened to him? What if he died? Right when we’d found each other…

At first, I didn’t like those thoughts. I pushed them away. Don’t think that. Don’t even go there. But then… inspired by the concept of the Buddhist Death Meditation, I decided to take a different approach. I went directly into those thoughts.

What if he died? Then what?

Grief, first. Anger. Despair. All the usual emotions rose up to greet me. But there was more beyond that… Beyond those intense emotions, my mind was already contemplating what to do with my life, given that I was single again. Where would I go? What was important? How did I want to live my life?

See, in the short time that I’ve known this man, his presence in my life has already changed me. Or not changed me, freed me. He reminds me of the carefree Self I was before my psychotic episodes. There’s a lightness about him, an optimism. He wants to travel more. He got me thinking about traveling more.

Feeling into it, I realized I was afraid of leaving New Zealand. That I’d been afraid of traveling for a long time—since coming back to New Zealand in 2004, post-psychosis. Ever since then, to a degree, I’ve been doing what’s expected of me. Towing the line. Attempting to be fairly normal. Forgetting about the big wide word out there.

Spending time with my new man and talking about travel, and opening into my deeper Self, I faced those fears and let them go.

I can travel again, even with a young child in tow. Suddenly the world opened up before me and I didn’t feel confined to New Zealand anymore. There’s plenty of places I could go – I can live and work with ease in both Australia and Canada and I have great friends and family in both countries.

So feeling into the possibility of my partner dying allowed me to realize the great gifts our relationship has already given me. I realized that all kinds of opportunities await. I know I want to teach far more yoga than I am now. I could go where there’s demand for yoga teachers… Hmmm. Suddenly, I was excited about the possibilities.

What a shift. All fear of him dying dissipated.

After all, he either will or he won’t, and odds are very high he won’t. If he did, there would be intense emotion to feel. But I’ve done that before, and I survived. Emotion is OK. It’s just life.

As a result of directly facing into my biggest fear in this moment, I felt free. Free to love deeply with no attachment. Yes, love with no attachment is possible because attachment comes from fear of loss; but, if I don’t fear losing my partner, that possibility just becomes another path that opens up before me, another road to be taken.

All clinging dissipates when fear departs. All that remains is love—real love.

Now, with two weeks to go before he arrives home, I feel like I’ve finally let go and relaxed. I’m not counting down the days and weeks anymore. I know that each day is going to effortlessly melt away and I’m focused on being here now, enjoying this time in my life. It will be the only time in my life like this.

Today, I took my young son, Samuel, to the park and blasted the music while practicing yoga in the sun, facing the mountains. Later, I ran the boardwalk while Samuel played happily with a close friend. The afternoon was slack-lining to more great dance tunes. A moonlight walk with Samuel after dinner. Writing now. Skyping a friend soon. Then bed. What a day!

My life is rich and full. I want for nothing.

I’m in the perfect place to enter a relationship.

I’m full. And I’m free.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photo: Elizabeth Anne Gavin}

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Kara-Leah Grant

Kara-Leah Grant is an internationally renowned retreat leader, yoga teacher and writer. She pours her love into growing a world-wide tribe of courageous, committed, and empowered individuals through leading retreats in New Zealand, Mexico, and Bali. Kara-Leah is also the founder of New Zealand’s own awesome yoga website, The Yoga Lunchbox, and author of Forty Days of Yoga—Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice and The No-More-Excuses Guide to Yoga. A born & bred Kiwi who spent her twenties wandering the world and living large, Kara-Leah has spent time in Canada, the USA, France, England, Mexico, and a handful of other luscious locations. She now lives and travels internationally with her son, a ninja-in-training. You can find Kara-Leah on her website, or on Facebook.

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anonymous Dec 15, 2015 8:11am

Great article! I’m fairly new to the whole ‘being present’ thing. I have read A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle and its so good. But I would love a book for new bees on Buddha and loving without attachment Any suggestions on books for me?

anonymous Aug 1, 2015 11:06pm

Today I kissed my love good bye. Not for good, for a few months. However, we now delve in the long distance relationship as he pursues his career and I continue to nurture my family here.

After a 24 year relationship I left to pursue my own world of happiness. Two years later I walked in to a crowed room and I felt the pull to something wonderful. A beautiful soul. Our cards lay on the table and I let my self be loved and to also allow myself love wholeheartedly. We’ve been fortunate that the universe allowed us to spend the most wonderful 6 months together, to get to know each other, nurture, explore, and now we plan, we plan a future together. I can relate to many of those feelings you write about. I’m not quite there in freedom, and although today is filled with all kinds of emotions. I know I am full.

Thank you for writing this, I’m glad I came upon it today.

anonymous Jan 17, 2015 5:37am

Beautiful and inspirational…thank you! <3

anonymous Aug 5, 2014 9:44pm

So, I'm curious… What happened?

anonymous Jul 12, 2014 8:55pm

Insightful article. I believe that it is possible to hold on loosely and give the other person space to grow and heal. It depends on what both parties are seeking. Love of all kinds is possible. Maybe the other person is a situation similar to yours. You won't know, if you don't ask.

anonymous Feb 28, 2014 7:07pm

Beautiful article. I can relate so much. <3

anonymous Dec 31, 2013 7:47pm

Thank you! You nailed what has been going on in my head as well … sure you and I come from totally different paths and backgrounds but your words have a far reaching meaning! Thank You Thank you! and Namaste

anonymous Dec 19, 2013 12:10am

what you have addressed, might just be the key to making all relationships fulfilling. And i'm not just talking about the romantic ones. It is indeed a great conquest. Our society as a whole needs nothing more than it needs freedom, freedom from selfish greed, freedom from fear. There's nothing that the humanity needs more than this.
Thank you for sharing! sweet simple and very very real.An inspirational read. thanks!

anonymous Nov 17, 2013 9:44am

"As a result of directly facing into my biggest fear in this moment, I felt free. Free to love deeply with no attachment. Yes, love with no attachment is possible because attachment comes from fear of loss; but, if I don’t fear losing my partner, that possibility just becomes another path that opens up before me, another road to be taken.

All clinging dissipates when fear departs. All that remains is love—real love."

In a nutshell…so perfect, so true and so much a part of my journey this time. As an older woman, this freedom has given me the greatest love of all…it's never too late! Such a joyful time in my life…letting go and letting love in.

Dani from Portland…to thine own heart be true. Listen to your intuitive self. What is the "norm" for everyone else, doesn't make it right for you. Beware of leg traps…listen to your inner voice…never shush it…listen, and you will know what is truth for you!

anonymous Nov 4, 2013 5:30pm

I thought this was going to be an article about open relationships. I'm single in Portland OR where it seems half the singles (and "attached" people) are open to open relationships. Personally, I think I'd have a hard time with it. It would be really interesting and valuable to hear the perspective of a mindful, Buddh-ish person on open relationships. On the one hand, it seems to fit perfectly with the philosophy of non-attachment, but on the other, it seems to fly in the face of tantric ideas about sexual union with one person as a spiritual practice in itself.

There's a spiritually romantic notion about freely loving someone without attachment, but I also suspect that the majority of people in open relationships are in denial about their own ability/willingness to fully commit to another person. Thoughts?

    anonymous Dec 31, 2013 4:03pm

    I was hoping this article was going to be about living without attachment and open relationships. To hopefully gain some insight on the situation I have found myself in. 7 months ago, my best friend and I discovered we had a physical attraction to each other, we are both women, with husbands, and 2 children each. When we first discovered our attraction for one another, her husband did not like the idea of it. My husband has always been very open minded, and known about my curiosity towards women sexually, and is completely supportive and wants me to explore if I need. My best friend and I wanted to explore our attraction, so we tried to figure out how to make it work. We came to the conclusion that we should just include our husbands so her husband would be more comfortable. In trying to make that possible, her and my husband found themselves extremely attracted to each other sexually. With my self being very sexually attracted to her as well, we decided to see if we could make it work. From the moment they found out they were attracted to each other, I have been extremely uneasy about it. It has completely ruined the attraction between my friend and I , and sometimes I fear the friendship. Over the past four months my husband and best friend have been ttrying to have a romantic relationship , while at the same time staying married. I feel like her marriage is falling apart, while mine is growing stronger, and more spiritual, mainly because I have been focusing a lot on spirituality. I have awakened to the fact that I have been extremely suppressed in a lot of areas in my self and I want to explore my sexuality, because I never really have the way that I would like to. My philosophy on sexuality is, that it can be an enlightening spiritual experience, something I want to explore, and naturally I want to do that with my husband. My husband and I have a strong connection, that I want to explore more deeply, and he does too. But I find myself constantly distracted about his feelings for her. I want to love him without attachment, but I’m constantly in fear if losing him to her, (even though he tells me I won’t) especially because she is more in love with my husband than she is her own husband, even though she won’t admit it, I can feel it. I just feel like somethings off, but I can not change his feelings, and he really enjoys the friendship he has found in her. They are so much alike it’s scary, and I can completely understand why they love each other. I’m just uncomfortably perplexed. How do I love him without attachment, without completely going in a different direction from him?

      anonymous Jan 5, 2015 6:22pm

      This was written a year ago. I'd really be interested in hearing an update on your situation. Was there insight gained on your part, or lessons learned…?

anonymous Nov 4, 2013 1:19am

Great article!! 🙂