How to Release Attachment to Outcomes & Embrace Joy in the Present Moment

As I write this, I must admit that it’s pretty late. I should probably be asleep, but I wanted to share an idea I’ve had lumbering around in my head for the last few days before it finally falls out of one of my ears. I have 3 simple questions for you, and I’d like you to answer as honestly as possible:

Have you ever felt like you weren’t doing enough? That, no matter how much you created, you could still do better? Have you ever had a feeling of quiet doom in the back of your mind?

I know I have, and the good news is, you’re definitely not alone. It seems to be pretty common among creative and intelligent types, and today we’re going to explore the antidote: non-attachment, a quality that I’ve found not only essential for travel but also helpful in every other area of my life, as well.

Are you attached to specifics?

More and more, I’ve been examining and reflecting on what I allow myself to actually care about. I’ve found that the more outcomes I allow myself to get attached to, the less happy I am. I’ve noticed that any time I get attached to a specific way something needs to happen (especially at a specific time), I’m actually constricting the universe around me. I’m saying to the universe, “I know best, and I want things to go *exactly* this way, otherwise I won’t be happy. Got it?”

I’m the only person who does this, right?

I wish… Call it human nature, destiny, whatever. We all do it. The trick is realizing when you’re doing it. After all, without awareness, no problems can be solved. (I think that’s why The Polyphonic Spree’s mythic story is about awareness, tragedy, and triumph. But that’s a story for another article.)

And as with many internal problems, a change of perspective is the first step. Over the last year or so, I came across an empowering question. The question, when asked, was like a splash of cold water on my face and made me feel a heck of a lot better about my life, especially when I was “doing the bad thing” and comparing myself to others. (Pro-tip: Nothing productive ever came out of this. Truly. Ask anyone who is happy in their work, and they’ll say the same.)

The Splash of Cold Water

The question is: If I knew I was going to die in 12 months, what would I let go, and what would I truly care about?

Asking questions like this helps me clarify what (and more importantly, who) is important to me.

This is also why I like being on the road for extended periods of time. It has the remarkable effect of reminding me where the magic is in life: the moment-to-moment connections between people. All of the magical moments I’ve ever experienced involved connections between people in some way. When you surround yourself with positive people that you truly enjoy spending time with, you can’t help but be connected with the infinite present moment. You can’t help but be happy. 🙂

So if the present moment is where joy can be found, is it any wonder why getting hung up on the future (or worse, the past) can be so nerve-wracking? How could it not? I dare you to prove me wrong. Go into the future and get something done.

Back yet?

Putting Happiness in the Future

We only have power in the present moment, and when we get attached to outcomes, we are putting our happiness somewhere in the future, which just doesn’t produce the results we want.

Next time you feel like if you don’t get XYZ done by whenever, ask yourself this: What if you were sick? Or dead? Would the world come to a grinding halt? Would someone be in critical danger, and if so, could someone be called in to replace you? That thing you need to get done may be important, but remember to keep perspective.

You are a cell in the human race. And while you may be a special flower (aren’t we all), you can take a break. The world existed before you and it will continue to spin long after you’re plant food.

The reality is that, whatever your beliefs may be, you’ve been given this magnificent gift: a lifetime on Earth. And isn’t one lifetime it a little too short to stress over the past or the future? When is a good time to start focusing on the present? When is a good time to stop focusing on what you can’t control and start focusing on the myriad of things you can?

Why not today? After all, it’s the only day you’ll ever really have.

The Traveller’s Mantra: Embrace Joy

All that You see is temporary.

All of it will pass away.

Yet your awareness will remain.

In the end, You are indestructible. All of the struggle, the pain, and the heartache is temporary, freely given to you as an instrument for your own growth. You can chart your own path through countless adventures, even in the face of incredible opposition. Do not doubt your power. Wiser ones than You have slept beside the street, penniless, in times of trouble.

Embrace Joy.

Because they survived. The great travellers of the past did not fret over tomorrow. They focused it. They imagined it. And then, they let it go, knowing that tomorrow was a myth yet sleeping within their dreaming minds, a myth that did not exist until it became today, completely unrecognizable from what they had imagined. They knew that delving into anxiety proved itself to be yet another example of a loss of faith, so they made a choice.

Embrace Joy.

Once, a wanderer struggled to pick up Faith and take it with him. He struggled for many years, until he realized that his hands were already filled with the slimy fragments of Worry. This worry had different flavors and forms: worry over loneliness, worry over possessions, and worry over the future. And the Wanderer realized that there was no room for Faith while he still clung to the Worry that he had held onto for so long. Yet the Wanderer wanted the Faith very much, so he struggled and struggled to open his hands and release his Worry. He struggled and strained, until at last he opened his hands and the Worry fell to the ground, like a lifeless worm from the Abyss. And then, with great care, the Wanderer picked up Faith.

Suddenly, a radiant path appeared before him.

And he set foot onto the path.

And embraced Joy.