How do I love without forming attachment?

Q:

How do I love without forming attachment?

A:

Anyone who has ever been in love will laugh, as I did, upon hearing this question. When in love, we can go from feeling sky-high ecstatic bliss in one moment to trigger and despair the next. Why? When we feel so good it's often accompanied by the fear of how much it will hurt when that love goes away. We then find ourselves so caught up in the preparation for avoiding supposed future pain that we are taken right out of the present moment, and we miss out on the love that's right here.

(Related question: What is unselfish love?)

Love Lives in the Present

When we romanticize and long for the past, it takes our presence away from what's actually happening now and can lead to feelings of deflation and depression. On the other hand, when we fantasize about the unknown future, we disconnect from the reality of the present and can spiral off into anxiety, fear and projection. This all stems from our past conditioning and from it, a desire to protect ourselves from future suffering.

The trauma of being abandoned, hurt, rejected or separated from the "other" in early life can stay in our physical body long beyond hours of processing in talk therapy, and gets stirred up again and again throughout love relationships in our adult life. Because this fear of being hurt again is so old and so deeply ingrained in our somatic experience, we are rendered unable to truly open our hearts to the ever-flowing loop of loving presence that is our birthright. And on a deeper level, we shut off the flow of our own love to our own hearts, not to mention to our beloved, our family or our community.

Heal Your Heart for Love

As we learn in The Yoga Sutras, the first klesha (obstacle) in our human experience is avidya, which can be translated to mean "ignorance" or as one of my teachers lovingly says, "we forgot." Upon being born into this world and soaking up external conditioning, we forget that we are divine beings and that we are all connected. We forget that the beloved is a reflection of the love and beauty within our own hearts.

Love Visualization Exercise

I invite you to practice this with me right now. Place your left palm over your heart and become aware of your breath, allowing it to flow in and out with ease. On your inhalations, visualize and feel yourself breathing in unconditional love. On your exhales, breathe that love back out. Notice how it feels to receive your own love and how it feels to share it. You can visualize the faces of people you know or even strangers receiving that love from you.

Love is about allowing, not clinging. Feel the way love expands from the inside out. As we practice smoothing out the separation between giving and receiving love, we realize that we are love itself.

(Related question: What's the difference between the Buddhist concept of non-attachment and being detached?)

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Written by Lucia Grace
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Lucia Grace is a Yoga Therapist, yoga instructor and dancer. Also a lover of movement and healing arts, she is based in the San Francisco Bay area.

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