Why the Law of Impermanence is Key: Non-Attachment in Relationships

When it comes to relationships, I’ve found that it is vital to retain a certain level of non-attachment.

Notice that I didn’t say “detachment.” Non-attachment is different.

Non-attachment is a term for anicca, which is the buddhist concept of impermanence, something I’ve been learning a lot about during my experience here on Hawai’i. I like the term “non-attachment” because it’s a pretty good approximation of what the original Pali word means.

The concept of anicca (pronounced “a-ni-cha”) is a concept that has been around for thousands of years as one of the major ideas in Buddhism. Basically, it means “impermanence.”

To be clear, I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist, but the more I grow to understand and put into practice this concept, the less suffering I experience in literally every area of my life. (I tend to use pieces of different belief systems inasmuch as I find them effective.)

You see, I have this bad habit. (Well, multiple bad habits, I suspect, but let’s deal with just one for now.)

Here’s my habit: when I’m in a relationship, I often analyze my interactions with the other person, their responses, my responses, and try to come to reasonable conclusions.

There are some upsides to this approach, but there is a hidden downside. By coming to logical conclusions, I unconsciously create an expectation of future events.

Yes, you read that right. By using reason, I can still perpetuate suffering.

Here’s why: it’s possible to cling to anything, including reason. And by clinging to reason, I was also clinging to the results of my own reasoning. This would all be fine except that (and you may have noticed this) life is not always reasonable. It can be absurd, unpredictable, and sometimes downright stupid.

The Antidote

So, how do I consciously reduce this tendency? As we already know, clinging to a certain outcome always brings suffering in the end. (Don’t believe me? Try it.) The only constant is Change, which is why non-attachment is my key to peace, happiness, and yes, even joy.

I’ll provide an example.

Say, for the sake of argument, that I was seeing someone who was very special to me. And say, for the sake of argument, that she and I have excellent chemistry, shared interests, and an open flow of communication. I may even see this person as having excellent longterm potential as a relationship partner.

Now say that she is struggling with her past and allowing it to rob her of enjoying life in the present. What if she got scared or overanalyzed the situation? What if she even used the F word that no man in a relationship wants to hear? “Friendship.”

If any of these things happened (again, purely for the sake of argument), I may be tempted to go back over our relationship and try and look for signs and draw logical conclusions. But again this is fundamentally flawed.


Because humans are not always logical and are often far from reasonable. If, for instance, a suspension bridge had failed, drawing logical conclusions based on hard data would be a fantastic idea, but people are not bridges and their inner workings cannot be inspected with a microscope — which is where non-attachment comes in.

When I look a such a situation with non-attachment, with true anicca in mind, I see it as merely one crest of a massive, ever-changing wave. If something happens that I feel aversion toward, I could feel bad. But that response is a choice. If I am conscious of that choice, I can choose to focus on anicca instead, the fact that “this too shall also change.” In the same vein, if something that I want to happen does not happen, the natural response to this is to feel suffering, but again, that response is a choice. (Over time, I’ve even realized how this feeling shows up in my physical body. For me personally, it usually shows up in the form of a tightness or anxiety the pit of my stomach. If I ever wake up with this feeling, I know there’s something bubbling up from my unconscious mind that I need to observe and release.)

Not only do my relationships flow better when I remember the Law of Impermanence: everything flows better, because integrating anicca changes my relationship to life itself. By remembering in every instance that all is changing and “this will also change,” I can free myself up to see reality in a new light, a truer light, for here is the Grand Secret:

Anicca is fundamental to the nature of the universe, and once I began to grasp that, everything changed.

Are You in Love With Where You Are? How to Keep the Travel Magic.

There comes a time when you know if the magic has gone out of a place.

Or when the magic of a new place calls out to you.

The thrill of fearlessly delving into the exploration of a new place produces a kind of “high” in my mind that many of you can probably easily relate to. It’s a kind of thrill that can’t be achieved any other way. The act of truly studying an area that draws you in, exploring it’s hidden places, with caution at first and then confidence, like a lover beholding his love for the first time, revealing avenues of beauty that were heretofore never imagined.

It’s entirely possible to fall in love with a city, or even a building. (If you haven’t yet, it’s likely that the reason is due to the fact that you simply haven’t been to enough places yet.) And as I look back at the last few years, I must admit I was enamored with the city of Madison for a while, perhaps even idealizing it at times, but now that magic has gone away.

Perhaps I know that city too well. Or perhaps I’ve moved on, but I have reached a peace with it, and for that I am grateful.

Do we ever really know why we fall out of love? I mean really know. I’m not so sure.

Perhaps it was merely infatuation with the city, for we know that infatuation can never last. With humans, this “puppy love” phase either proceeds onward to a more thoughtful kind of love, or it falls apart into something that we don’t call romantic love. I can’t help but think that my relationship with cities, however absurd it may sound to you, isn’t so different sometimes.

You see, I have these memories, so many memories, of uncovering small mysteries, things that felt like messages hidden within the city. Memories of visiting the top of the Capitol Building with a good friend and seeing the entire square spread out before us, or the time I discovered a small, hidden pier along the shore of Lake Mendota. Quiet moments snapping together like magnets.

Once when I was cycling south from Tenney Park, I came across a small, laminated note hidden inside a bush telling me that, yes, I was welcome to the berries along the trail but not to make new trails as that would crush the daylilies nearby.

For some inexplicable reason, the feeling of that day flashes back to me now and then. I have innumerable memories of exploring that city, but my unconscious mind seems to mark that memory with a strange level of significance.

A Pretty Lovely Lady

Yet all of these are merely memories, tools I may use for my own journey of expansion and self-knowledge, just as your memories are to you.

Have you ever felt that a place was calling out to you from a great distance?

I have, and do. Yes, it’s true, I have yet to post-process and release 100+ photos of my life-changing East Coast Adventure, and you will see those. Rest assured, they are all in the queue. But these Wisconsin days have gotten to me, and I feel the call to move on. All will come in time… in time.

If you’ve been reading this site diligently, you already know where my eyes are set, don’t you? It rhymes with “Good bye! Eeee!”

RIGHT. I’m going to Hawaii in just a couple months.

I’m not going to say I’ve fallen in love, or that this will be easy. Good friends of mine are here, but I no longer see a long-term future for myself in Wisconsin. Sure, I haven’t even met Hawaii yet, but she definitely seems like a lovely lady, even from a distance. And she calls to me. Even more importantly, my intuition is giving me a green light on going there. (Although it stubbornly refuses to give me any indication as to how long, so I’m going to play it by ear. I’ve committed to 2 weeks, but we both know it’s going to be for longer than that.)

Here’s the thing: it’s not just that there aren’t any guarantees anymore. In truth, there never were. “Security” is always an illusion. We can create a measure of it in our minds, but it never exists anywhere else. It is purely a mental construction, a war waged with ideas.

Perhaps the reason we don’t know why we fall out of love is because we don’t really understand how we fall in love in the first place. So how do you keep the magic? Simple. You follow your intuition, run it through your heart, and then run it by your mind. When all are in agreement, you know you’ve got something.

Consider where you live now. Your space, your location, is the result of the sum total of many decisions you’ve made. It can be changed if you desire. Empty out every thought and breathe the air you’re in.

Are you in love?