How to be non-attached if you have children?

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How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by emmapeach » Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:23 pm

Hi there,

I see there is a big difference between love and attachment, but I do have a huge problem with being non-attached. I'm far from being non-attached to anything so far, but I just cannot imagine how to achieve non-attachment if you have children. Of course, you love them, but what about worrying about their health, their safety, their happiness? If one of my kids is ill I get so worried, if one of them cries or has some sorrow it just breaks my heart. I have been suffering from depression and anxiety, as I have told you before, and especially anxiety is back with racing speed as soon as there is something wrong with my kids.
Yesterday my little one, he's 10, cried so much in bed. He said he hated school and didn't want to go there. He had problems before with a friend (who is no real friend, to be honest). I see that he always gets that way when holidays are over and school starts again. I guess it is this fear of mondays so many people - including myself - have. But how can I console him? I feel and watch my own fear and anxiety creeping in and I am scared to death that he could feel the same, that he or my other boy might become ill as well one day. Today he woke up and was happy again, as usual, but he told me that he feels that way almost every evening (even if he doesn't have to cry every day because of it) and as a consequence of this I experience an anxiety attack that is lasting since this morning now. I try breathing, concentrating, reading something spiritual but my stomach feels like I have to puke, my heart is racing and I almost don't know how to handle it all.

I don't know how I could ever handle major issues like a severe illness or something like that....


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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by Russell » Sun Mar 09, 2014 4:28 pm

A few things..

Firstly, look how much anxiety and pain you already have handled up until now.. really we have an amazing capacity to endure sufferring, interesting huh.

Then about detachment; thoughts that say you can't handle a severe illness or thoughts about this or that are still just thoughts. Detachment is not much more than just recognising that these are thoughts and stories that our mind makes up, they are most of the time not referring to something that is actually happening. The thought and the story is the reality, they are not referring to some other reality. Notice if you recognise this or not, notice if you actually believe your thoughts fully or do you actually notice that they are just thoughts.

Don't expect some big change in your reactions when you apply this, because your bodily reactions and emotions are habits too, that have built up in tandem with your thought patterns. But if you consistently apply this principle of recognising that thoughts are not real, and notice when you slip into fully believing the stories they tell, then this gradually takes the edge off anxiety and other emotions.

Then look around you, there are many many people suffering from anxiety, actually everyone! So you are not alone and you probably are handling it relatively well.

This is a good start, and actually anxiety is not such a big deal, there are deeper darker places in most of us that make us fell much worse, but these things are unreal too and when brought into consciousness they gradually become (again) a natural part of our energies.

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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by Punya » Sun Mar 09, 2014 4:52 pm

Children are always tougher than we think. My youngest son, in particular, went through a couple of difficult periods and is a kinder and more compassionate person as a result. Talking to his teacher or principal might help but that's a call only you can make.

While I agree with Soar's advice, I think it's pretty hard to be a non-attached parent. The challenge is to extend that love and caring to everyone.
Last edited by Punya on Sun Mar 09, 2014 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by Russell » Sun Mar 09, 2014 4:53 pm

I edited above post a fair amount so maybe worth rereading.

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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by JamyangTashi » Sun Mar 09, 2014 10:17 pm

It's not so different from practicing non-attachment to yourself. The case of a child being sick isn't so different from the case of being sick yourself, for example. In the same way that we have good will and compassion and wish for ourselves to be free from suffering, we also have good will and compassion for our children and wish for them to be free from suffering. Cultivating anxiety and depression when we are faced with situations we don't like does not help make better choices to improve the situation, in fact anxiety and depression cloud judgement so that wise choices are harder to make. The same applies when our children are facing situations that they or we do not like. It's important to cultivate equanimity to understand that unpleasant experiences, illness, and even death will unavoidably happen. No amount of anxiety can prevent these things from happening. What we can do, however, is apply skillful action to reduce the incidence of these things and to deal with these things wisely when they eventually occur. Children are the owners of their actions in the same way that any other being is the owner of their actions. The capacity as a parent to help children develop is much greater than the capacity to help most other people, but ultimately the decisions that are made are up to the child. Being clearly aware of what can and can not be controlled and focusing on developing skillful action tends to lead away from being caught up in stories about the outcomes of those actions.

In short, the most compassionate thing to do for yourself to bring about the cessation of your own suffering is to abandon attachment. The most compassionate thing to do for your children to help them bring about the cessation of their suffering is to abandon attachment. Being aware of this helps cultivate non-attachment in a way that allows better choices to be made and also provides a beneficial role model for children in terms of how to skillfully respond to unexpected events by not allowing attachment to cloud the mind and occlude wisdom.

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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Mar 09, 2014 10:29 pm

The easy answer to this (I think), is simply to actively love your kids more than yourself. And of course the rest of your family, spouse etc. As much as we can celebrate their joys, do so. Do what we can to ease their suffering..try to give them all you can, and take whatever they need you to take.

Remember your attachment to your family does nothing for them, whereas merit-making selfless actions towards them do. To put it in shorthand, a lot of teachers say that the only thing you "take with you" at death is the merit you've made in this that sense the only part of your relationships you get to hold onto is the altruistic part - the part you give away, ironically is the only part you actually get to "keep".
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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by krodha » Sun Mar 09, 2014 11:52 pm

As long as an individual functions from the standpoint of mind, attachment is implied and will always be present. Mind as dualistic experience is predicated on grasping because the duality of subject and object arises directly from acts of grasping. It is possible to aspire to not grasp, and attempt to practice non-attachment, but grasping and attachment will still be present. It is just that we may form attachment to the prospect of being unattached, or grasp at non-grasping. So all in all when it comes to our relative condition we're damned if we do and damned if we don't, and therefore embrace caring for your children and love them fully.

If you want to overcome attachment and grasping then make a commitment to practice the buddhadharma as much as possible and with skillful intent. As your practice flowers you will recognize the innate non-grasping and unattachment of mind-essence, because your nature is innately free of mind, and is therefore free of the confusion which manifests the artificial constructs of you as a subject relating to objects. That non-conceptual wisdom will clarify attachment and grasping for you, and familiarization with that wisdom will purify the afflictive bonds which are the foundation for afflictive habits of grasping. The true face of love is known in wisdom because the true expression of wisdom is uncaused compassion. So you don't have to worry about your love for your children, just commit to practicing as much as possible and if you practice skillfully everything else will come in time.

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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by Vajraprajnakhadga » Wed Mar 19, 2014 11:19 pm

Having children pretty much means you have already left the path of renunciation. Generally I would suggest Vajrayana/Dzogchen from the non-monastic (ngakpa/ngakma) perspective for parents, but that's just my personal take on the matter. There are no easy answers when dealing with the messiness of life.

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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by Andrew108 » Thu Mar 20, 2014 6:20 am

emmapeach wrote:Hi there,

I see there is a big difference between love and attachment, but I do have a huge problem with being non-attached. I'm far from being non-attached to anything so far, but I just cannot imagine how to achieve non-attachment if you have children. .......I don't know how I could ever handle major issues like a severe illness or something like that....

Well first of all it's great that you are not non-attached. That is a positive start. Then, second I think Buddhists have a wrong idea of non-attachment. All of us Buddhists in the West have a purely intellectual approach. Non-attachment is very different in practice. The non-attachment you read about in the texts is just an idea and nothing else.

So what is genuine non-attachment? Put simply, genuine non-attachment is a love and a valuing of life. It is more about understanding and appreciating equality than it is about abandoning emotions or fears. You have life. Your child has life. The kids at school have life. This is the real basis of equality before we throw judgements around. We all have this precious life. This life is so rare. It's amazingly rare. To appreciate that you and your child and all the other ordinary people and animals you encounter share in this precious life brings about a real relaxation. You pass on this relaxation to your kids. They don't need your anxiety.

So non-attachment is also a great appreciation of the natural value of life. You don't really need to set goals for your kids. They have already accomplished the goal - which is to have life. All you need to do is appreciate it. This appreciation of life is natural non-attachment. When you talk to yogis and retreatants they will tell you the same thing. Milarepa sang songs saying the same thing.

So enjoy life. Enjoy your child's life. Pass on this appreciation and joy of life to others. Instead of judging first, see life in others first. It's natural equality and it means so much. It's an appreciation of natural equality that brings about the experience of non-attachment.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by Seishin » Fri Mar 21, 2014 11:55 am

That's an interesting view Andrew.

For me non-attachment is about not owning things or having the thought "this is mine". My mum always said "we don't own our kids, we only borrow them until they are ready to fly the nest".


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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by supermaxv » Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:27 pm

I found this (non Buddhist sourced) quote to help me out a lot in daily life with my 2 year old:
“Listen. You have obviously never become attached to a child before. This is your very first time to have this happen. You are the newest of new parents. And I don’t think you’ve figured out yet that he’s just a baby, that there are thousands of babies being born and dying every day, and no one has any control over that, including you. He could die tomorrow. And we need to be happy that we had him for as long as we did.”
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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by puppy » Fri Mar 21, 2014 8:46 pm

I am also high on the anxiety scale and am a mother with a very close bond with my daughter. I can't tell you a sure-fire fix, but I can pass on some things that helped me.

One thing I realized, when I instantly went into anxiety mode over something that upset my child, or when she was sick, is that when I went into that mode I was focusing on myself, not really focusing on my daughter's needs. My anxiety and physical panic manifestations were because I was subconsciously prepping myself for something bad... fight or flight if you will. One day, out the blue, I realized that as a parent my most important job was to raise my child to the best of my ability. So when a situation cropped up, I really concentrated on what my daughter's needs were at that time. Does she need advice or just a sounding board? Would it be helpful if I offered to help her brainstorm some possible solutions? Does she need to to just lay in my arms until she feels better? I tried to really focus on her body language, actions, emotions etc so I could get the best idea on how to help her through her situation. If an anxious thought entered my head I would acknowledge it as if answering the front door and telling a salesman that it was not a good time to visit, I was busy, and could they come back later?

I found that when I put all my conscious effort into giving my daughter the best coaching I could, I was too absorbed in helping her to be displaying signs of anxiety. Then later, when I was alone, I would allow my anxious feelings and worries to be heard. I would mentally trot them out... "What if my daughter dies", "What if she develops poor self esteem", "What if..." And I would remind myself of rational answers for the worries. "She may die, and I would be devastated. But I would slowly go on living and never forget her", "If I see that she is developing a poor self image I will seek professional help for her", etc etc.

I can't say that my anxiety is any less, and I still worry. But most important, it does not have the power over me that it once did. When I get the pounding heart, breathlessness and lightheadedness I remember that it is only a biological response to an overactive mind. I try to observe it as a scientist would, just observing its effects on my body until the wave slowly passes (and it ALWAYS passes). Doing this keeps me from being "sucked into the vortex" of anxiety.

I am guessing that when the Buddha talked about non-attachment for lay people, he didn't mean that we shouldn't love our children. More that we should not grasp at our love for our children.

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Re: How to be non-attached if you have children?

Post by Kaccāni » Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:54 pm


Do you think you can control the fate of your kids?
Do you think you can prescribe their future?

In fact, you cannot even control your own fate and future, because future did not happen yet.

It is very normal that you "feel" about your kids.
Detachment does not mean you're free from feelings.
But when those feelings arise, you have the power to let them go,
so they don't harden into emotions.

So a moment of fear may arise, but you won't stick to the story so it cannot become constant worry.
So if your kids have sorrow you will probably cry with them. It's ok, there are times when it's good to cry. But it won't sitck. Your mind will not produce a story of despair.

Our bodys are made to mirror others. It's part of the love to show compassion.
What hasn't been born into our bodies is constant worry. It's an illusion that is made up by our mind, fed by the illusion of control.

Hope that helps.
Shush! I'm doing nose-picking practice!

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