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Love versus Attachment

Consider if you were asked to decipher the difference between love and attachment… how would you answer?

In the first instance both are perceived to be the same. From our own experience we know that when we love someone or something we become attached to the person or the thing.

When our teacher asked us to think about someone we love, most of us being mothers thought of our children. What is the first thought that comes to our mind when we think of our children? It’s concern for their wellbeing. Sadly, that concern turn’s into worry and we believe that our children will be lost without us.

According to our teacher what we perceive as love is nothing but attachment and attachment and love are complete opposite of each other. If we are attached we cannot love and if we experience and share true love we cannot be attached. This was all extremely confusing to begin with but as we delved further it became clearer that what we think is love is nothing but attachment wrapped in expectation.

Love in its true sense is all-inclusive, it is beyond the mind and the body. It is selfless, patient and accepting.  It is not dependent on the value or relationship because the notion of separateness is non-existent in love. To love another is to love the self and to love the self is to love another.  Love in a true sense transcends the bodily separation and therefore love is spiritual. The difference in forms and names leads to a feeling of separation and we forget what love is. Love means freedom and acceptance of as is and what is. Love is a life enabling force and not a life limiting force. Love is all encompassing, unconditional, freeing, accepting and without expectation and without control. 

By Hans.
Yi mother and child. By bipolarbear on Flickr.

Attachment on the other hand breeds a sense of possession and makes boundaries. Intense attachment with a person or object leads to fear and pain of loss. Attachment is exclusive instead of inclusive. Attachment leads to dependence and expectation. Attachment is transitory and is dependent on the value we apportion to the object of our attachment. When the perceived value decreases our attachment also decreases. If we truly understood and practiced love, our love would not waver or change.

Intellectually we can say we understand the difference between love and attachment but realistically the line we draw in our heads is quite fine and often we don’t know how to love without attachment.

Thinking about my daughter, I know I love her, but I still act out of attachment to her. In my desire to ensure that she is happy and well looked after, I put expectations and boundaries on her. I tell her what to do and I hover around her ensuring she is doing her homework. I believe I am doing all this because I love her and her future depends on how I bring her up. I am fearful when I think of something happening to her. I experience emotional pain when she gets sick or is physically hurt. My so-called love feels suffocating to my daughter. If it were real love she would feel free and not entangled in my web of affection.

As my understanding of life and spirit is expanding, I can see how my belief structure is limiting my ability to experience and share love. My actions are probably motivated out of fear and how I will be perceived as a parent.

If I am to truly love her, I need to accept her just as she is and not try and change her. I need to accept that she is her own person with her own likes and dislikes and these likes and dislikes may not necessarily be the same as mine. I need to see her beyond the physical and see the sameness of spirit. I need to have faith that she is as much a child of God as she is mine. If I am concerned about her well being and safety so is God. I need to understand that although I gave birth to her I do not posses her. She came through me and not to me. I need to be a guide and a mentor and fulfill my motherly duties to the best of my capacity. I need to clearly understand the difference between love and attachment.

In our day-to-day behavior we equate love with showing concern and being there for the other person, but however much we feel that we are doing things out of love there is an underlying expectation. The moment I say I love you a part of me wants to hear the same words being said back to me. If I do something for another a part of me expects something in return. Even the law of karma states that what goes around comes around so we are not wrong in our expectation of certain outcomes, but we then need to understand that what we claim to be love is not really love but attachment.

When we were really made to reflect on the real understanding of love, it was shocking for me to realize that till now I had only been attached and not really loved. How many of us can truly say we have loved unconditionally?  I for one have not, but as my understanding of life, love and spirit is growing so is my discernment of love and attachment.

Starting today I will focus on my behavior towards my loved ones and see if that behavior is rooted in love or attachment? Is my behavior limiting the other or is it allowing the other to flourish? Is my behavior based on a need or desire on my part or is it coming from a place of genuine giving? If I were to truly love I would have to detach myself from the outcome and not have any expectation. I am probably not alone in my questions and my misunderstanding of love and most of us confuse one with the other.

But it’s never too late to let go of attachment to let love in.

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