Lenten Non-Attachment


Growing up an Evangelical Christian, I didn’t really have a formative experience of Lent, other than judging “those Catholics” for thinking they could earn God’s grace by giving stuff up. Now, I am connected to a mainline congregation with a much richer sense of both text and tradition, and have also discovered that the Lenten practice of “giving up” closely correlates to the ongoing Buddhist practice of “non-attachment.”

In the desert, Jesus was non-attached to the possibility of power, of wealth, of significance, of ultimate influence. This was not to say he didn’t have power, wealth, significance or influence (he did), but to say that the “temptations” he experienced would have been decisions made to try and achieve those things outside of that poised and peaceful space of non-attachment.

In our own practice of Lent this year, we could think about what “things” we are giving up, but this is often a glossing-over of the attachments we are actually wrestling with. My attachments, to name a few, include: Dependence on the praise of others, a perception of power and influence that I own and control, affection from other people to fill the voids in my love and acceptance of myself… and so on.

Now, I could give up meat and cheese, and if I did, that could be powerful for other reasons. However, I think it is an opportunity to more seriously engage the ways in which we are attached (i.e. tempted) to behaviors, perceptions, and ways of being. To journey with Jesus, and to journey with ourselves into the desert of our own inner silence and void. To sit in the space where our self-perceptions and self-talk are loud and accusing (the word Satan comes from ha-satan, which in hebrew means “the accuser”).

Where are we tempted to live into our attachments instead of in a deep rest in our emptiness and belovedness?

This Lent, I want to give up my attachment. I am giving up giving fucks for what other people think. I am letting go of relationship structures that are unhelpful and unhealthy and holding space and silence for me to trust words that are deeper than the opinions of others. This Lent, I am giving up external validation and am trusting in a peace that passes understanding. This Lent, I am giving up a relationship which has been a microcosm of my codependence, my attachment, my self-doubt and people-pleasing, as well as a deep friendship I hope will continue or re-emerge in the process of letting go.

Christians and Buddhists have much to learn from one another, as do we with people of other faiths/non-faiths. Perhaps this Lent can be a time where we journey with Jesus and Buddha into our own inner desert, face our temptation/attachment, and reorient ourselves on the path towards our own enlightenment and the liberating of all conscious beings.

What attachments do you recognize in yourself during this season that you feel inspired to face and let go of?

What desert do you see Jesus/Buddha/the Universe/your Guides leading you into?

What do you think is possible for you on the other side?

With open-handed and open-hearted love,

Barefoot Ben