Softening Our Grip on Outcomes Through Nonattachment

Back when I had a yoga studio, I had a weekly yoga philosophy discussion group. It started as a short workshop at The Sacred Circle, a local bookstore that carries some wonderful yoga and meditation books, among other things. In the workshop, in the discussion group, in every yoga training I’ve taken that’s touched on this and in my own teaching, nonattachment has proven to be the toughest concept to grasp.

At its most basic, nonattachment means letting go of our grip on outcomes. That’s a tough concept for most of us to first understand and then to live. I got a hard practical lesson in it while going through yoga teacher training at the same time the newspaper industry seemed to be melting down through round after round of layoffs. That lesson was probably also the greatest gift I could have received because it got me to the point of separating the work I did from who I was in my head.

I’ve always had a “if it’s meant to happen, it will” approach to major decisions in my life, from the college I chose to career and housing moves. That’s served me well to this point. Invariably, the things that didn’t work out planted the seeds for other developments down the line that I appreciate today.

Nonattachment ties into that because when we practice it, we focus on being with intention, on acting from those intentions and on letting go of preconceived notions of the results.

Wait, what? No results? But what about being the top-

We let it go. Four years ago, that let me reach a place where I accepted that if I got laid off, it was a sign it was time for the next chapter and I’d know what that was when the time came. I’m still working in newsrooms and don’t have any reason to think that will change, but at some point I know that it might end and if it happens, I’ll see what’s next.

As a writer, it means I focus on making each story the best it can be, each tale the best one I can tell given my current level of skill. And then I put it out there and let it stand or fall on its merits. I still promote and market and give each one as much attention as it deserves, but I also know that not every story resonates with every person.

My current book hasn’t resonated with Kyrie, who is my usual editor, so she and I both decided she’s sitting this one out. That’s not a reflection of me as a writer, nor her as an editor — just the reality that all three pieces — me, her and the book — aren’t making a single whole this time. So I have a different editing process this time with different eyes, and when it comes out, she’s free to read or not, depending on her inclination.

And we’re still friends who talk almost every day, who have each others’ back when coworkers or family are irritating us. We let this one piece go, and it’s let our friendship continue. If either one of us had held on, dug in our heels or tried to force the outcome we wanted, that probably wouldn’t be the case.

Sometimes, we need to let go of certain scenes or characters that aren’t working, need to “kill our darlings.” Or we let go of our visions for exactly what will happen when we sell our book or publish it ourselves and just hang on for the ride. We stop expecting our life to conform to a pattern and let it evolve on its own, making the choices that seem right at the time and following wherever the path leads.

When we can do this, and practice it with compassion and equanimity, we’ve found that nonattachment.

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4 thoughts on “Softening Our Grip on Outcomes Through Nonattachment

    • Thanks! Nonattachment is absolutely the toughest off-the-mat element to yoga IMHO, but the more we practice it, the better it makes life because we learn how to let go.

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