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October 16, 2018

How I Stopped Clinging to the Past (& Worrying about the Future).

Earlier this year, my husband and I moved from central New York to Costa Rica.

I left behind my friends, my parents, my siblings and their children, my own four children, and three granddaughters I adore.

A month before we left, I sat on the deck on a warm, early-summer day and took in my surroundings—our neat yard, the pretty flowers we planted every Memorial Day, the feeling one gets when the weather finally breaks after a long winter.

I considered how much I’d miss this.

But then, I took a step back and thought about how everything is so fleeting.

The only thing we have is the present. That present moment will pass and be replaced by another, and another, and so on. If we cling to the past, we cannot appreciate the wonder right in front of us. If we worry about the future, we rob ourselves of the joy we feel in the moment.

It was then that I decided to start practicing nonattachment.

Nonattachment may sound harsh, but it’s actually one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves and others. Practicing nonattachment doesn’t mean we don’t love someone or something or feel the full range of emotions in the same way as others. It simply means that we acknowledge that each moment is fleeting, so we embrace each one and then let it go. We allow emotions to come to the surface and then fade away, without allowing ourselves to be imprisoned by them.

Don’t worry that friends or family will think you don’t love them. Practicing nonattachment allows us to love others more mindfully. If we are honest with ourselves, we can realize that the only moment we are certain we will share with loved ones is the present moment. Life is unpredictable, and they each deserve our presence in that moment.

The benefits of nonattachment are astounding.

We no longer have to run after happiness hoping we will eventually catch up to it. We can simply savor it while it’s here, and then release it when it’s time to let go. We feel more inclined to serve others, but do not become attached to the outcome—because so much of it is out of our hands anyway. Most of all, we free ourselves, because we can claim our emotions instead of allowing them to claim us.

Nonattachment doesn’t end with the bonds with our friends and family—it can be extended to our belongings as well.

Before we moved, I was tasked with finding new homes (sometimes the dump) for more than half of our belongings spanning many decades. I went through all the mementos I had kept since before my children were born.

I had to ask myself if I should keep something simply because I’ve kept it for so long, or if it was time to release it and pass it along to someone else. To be honest, there was a little pain when I first let go of some of it. But that pain was temporary, and I don’t have a single regret for anything that didn’t follow us to Costa Rica.

Doing this also made room in our new home—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—for new things.

There’s a reason they call it the “practice” of nonattachment.

It doesn’t come naturally to most people. We have to practice it.

Give it a try and see how it works for you.

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Chris Day

author: Chris Day

Image: Dominik Vanyo/Unsplash

Editor: Kelsey Michal