October 7, 2019
Word of the Week: Non-attachment
The other weekend, Andrew and I were out exercising together. He was running and I was biking. This is something we do when one of us is training for a race to keep the other company and enjoy some QT together. Since Andrew was only a few weeks away from the Berlin marathon, we were on a 22-mile adventure around the entire island of Manhattan.
At about mile 14, I took a wrong turn. I started to get flustered because I knew this is one of Andrew’s pet peeves. See, Andrew runs for speed and any wrong turn I make, red light I catch or traffic I get caught behind has the potential for me to lose him or slow him down. I braced myself for an earful when we met up with each other at the intersection.
“You don’t follow directions!” he shouted from across the street, shaking his head in disapproval. Ugh, here we go, I thought. “And why are you biking so slow?” he proceeded to ask.
Back in the day, these sorts of comments would have sent me in a tizzy. My mind would have a field day, thinking:
Why is he being so mean?
I’m such an idiot
He’s going to regret having me on this run
Why do I always screw things up?
He’s being an asshole!
Our relationship is doomed
This time, I just took a breath in and said: “I wish I could answer that for you, babe” and left it at that.
When the light turned, he raced off and I continued biking. I took a few deep breaths, looked up at the tall buildings, and enjoyed the breeze against my skin. Without paying much attention, I realized I was practicing active mindfulness. I noticed the hurtful comments but didn’t attach to them. I gave both of us space to process the experience and trusted it would blow over.
Sure enough, when we got to the next intersection he leaned over and said “Why am I such a grouch? I love you.” We both laughed and he gave me a kiss. And that was that!
Meditation is all the hype these days and while going through the motions is one thing, the real gift is when you can take what you learn into your daily life. I’ve been meditating almost every day for the past several years. Sometimes I sit there wondering WTF the purpose is as my anxiety takes ahold of me. Other times I notice an immediate difference in how much more calm my nervous system feels. At this point, I’ve also read over forty different studies that show that meditation is good for you, helping with everything from stress and depression to chronic pain and orgasms.
This little incident with Andrew was one of the first times, though, that I consciously noticed that I was able to bring my meditation practice into real life. The key thing to note is this is a skill. It’s something I’ve been working on for years. That’s why it’s wildly unhelpful to tell someone to “toughen up” or “get a thicker skin” or “don’t take things so personally.” For people who are super sensitive like me, it’s nearly impossible to tune out emotions. Besides, I don’t think tuning out emotions is the answer because feelings are what makes life so rich and beautiful. If you get rid of feelings like sadness and pain, you also get rid of feelings like joy and love.
Instead, what’s more helpful is meditating and learning how to notice emotions and let them pass like they are floating down a stream. That is the practice of non-attachment. It’s not a light switch that you can just turn on whenever you want. It’s a skill that takes time to cultivate.
Ask Yourself: In times of tension, do you tend to be more reactive or are you able to step back and let things blow over? What is one way practicing non-attachment could improve your life, work, and/or relationships?
Weekly Mantra: I am feeling ____________ right now and that is ok.