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What A Child's Shape Sorter Can Teach Us About the Peace Found in Non-Attachment

What A Shape Sorter Can Teach Us About Non-Attachment
When you're in alignment, things slot into place

When I was younger, even as recently as a decade ago, I was convinced that the pure force of my will would ensure I achieved anything I set my mind to - and in many cases it did - regardless of whether that anything was for my greatest and highest good, or not.

To be honest with you, all those years ago and within the restrictive confines of my small, limited and short-sighted mindset, I was wholly unaware of the 'greatest and highest good' concept to begin with. Expansiveness would be something I earnt through the trials of age and experience.

To paraphrase the late Maya Angelou, we all strive to do the best we can and then when we know better, the theory is, we do better. So, there I was in my younger years, upscaling an infant's determination to ram a star shape into the square hole of a shape sorter, and because I didn't know better, I couldn't do better. Had I the sense to stand back and consider the possibility that maybe - just maybe - the pure force of my will was wrong to try and overrule the current flow of events - and that the lack of alignment should have been my first clue - my life may have been so much less difficult.

But that's not all, because my once untamed 3D human ego then had to insert its two pennies worth, no less than insisting on my steadfast prevailment over circumstances, which were simply outside of my control and influence. This naturally led to more 'failure', dis-ease and angst.

You see, when a toddler cannot fathom why a star shape won't slot into a square hole, it's due to their temporary developmental infancy, but the same could have been said about my younger adult wilfulness too. Because I didn't know better, I couldn't be better, and so force of will and wilfulness was all I had. My skillset was small and my toolbelt was sparse. Sure, my mind and body had developed through years of formal education and life experience, but my spiritual development needed urgent remedial attention, because the moment I learnt about the principles of non-attachment, the more enriching and peaceful my life became.


Non-attachment defines the absence of attachment to thoughts, feelings, and the subsequent need to control them. The thing is, when you live in a state of not knowing better, when your perspective and perceptions are limited in scope, living in fear of the unknown becomes likely, and your ego's bravado follows along like a sickly twin. Something known is better than anything unknown, and intangibility is anathema.

When fearful of the unknown, we're often compelled to make everything known, and how do we do that? By creating "should" stories in our minds and trying to force them into being, ramming star shapes into square holes, essentially. It expends a lot of energy; cognitive and otherwise. But what if we were to let go? What if we were to accept this star shape is just not meant to fit into the square hole? Sure, we could pound it and risk forcing a break, but then what? Or we could suspend our ego identity's need to know and solve everything, embrace the unknown, accept that desired events are not meant for us, but what is meant for us will arrive shortly - but staring into an abyss of the unknown, even acknowledging there is an abyss to begin with - is scary.

Our egos need absolutes and certainties, because without absolutes and certainties our egos must grapple with the undesirable reality of its own fallibility. Shocking. But it is within our egos need to know and solve everything - to the point of ramming star shapes into square holes - that we become the authors of our own misery and dis-ease. So now is the time to tell your ego to STFU and embrace not knowing or, when things don't fit, graciously accept they're not meant for you. Does this sound tricky to you? Let me reframe this...


In 1996 I went to see Primal Fear with Richard Gere and Ed Norton, without a clue of the wider plot beyond its marketing. But this movie has endured in my memory as one of the best plot twists I've ever enjoyed, simply because I exposed myself to the complete unknown for a couple of hours; I deliberately didn't read reviews etc. In this instance, the unknown didn't equal something inherently bad - although I've sat through my fair share of doozies too - no, this was something inherently great. Which is the nature of life: some you win, some you lose, but it's all learning, it's all life and it's all experience. Change, or not knowing, doesn't automatically mean bad. Oftentimes it means peace, good, great and fab.

You may have a situation that's less than ideal for you right now. Are you trying to force it into a shape more to your liking, but are being met with resistance e.g.: a relationship that's run its course, but you're trying to hold on because someone is better than no one? Or perhaps your job is stunting your professional growth or creativity, but it pays well enough? Or maybe you need to get fit, but sitting, eating, drinking and Netflix-ing is more pleasurable and less effort? When you deny what is, you delay what you want. That persistent resistance to your force of will is your first clue to let go and let it be.

So, the alternative is to obviously let go. Neutralise your ego's need to call the shots and be prepared to not know, to have little or no control over everything/everyone, to practice non-attachment; let what comes come, and what goes go. Neutralise the need to stand in the doorway, restricting the free flow of life. You will be amazed to learn that what's meant for you will never go by you - but only when the time is right, for your greatest and highest good.

Don't get me wrong, I still have moments when I want certain things meant for me to hurry the hell up, but then I mindfully catch myself on and accept that whilst my puny 3D human ego may want it now, my higher self understands how the stars must align before everything slots into place, because life will always unfold exactly as it should, and always in perfect time. I now have far too much evidence of this to think, believe or behave otherwise.


Once you understand who, where, how and why it all works this way, the pressure is lifted. For sure there is more to discuss for you have the entire picture, but I won't overwhelm you until I'm in a position to answer your inevitable deluge of questions, so please do feel free to arrange a chat. Alternatively, and whatever your current age might be, my new project The Midlife Awakening Course, is a great place to start, as it explains all the basics, complete with 32 lessons, 60+ pages of downloadable, full colour illustrated course materials, plus optional and downloadable course narration and discounted life coaching sessions too.

For now though, rather than committing yourself to a life-long change which can easily seem like a scary prospect, why not test drive the non-attachment principle for one month; just 30 little days? Journal as extensively and honestly as you can, so that you may be able to look back and review your thoughts and feelings on any given subject at any given time, and then the outcome you experienced from having practised non-attachment.

In a nutshell, all you need to do is maintain a state of mindfulness - to be fully self-aware in every moment of Now (as opposed to sliding into the dead and gone past or unknowable future) - ask yourself if it's your ego's need to control and solve everything in play and. if it is, let it go; neutralise that ego and then journal the peace it brings you.


My client Joe accepted this challenge and had proven its value to himself, before he'd even got into work on the first morning of adopting non-attachment. Remember, this is about detaching yourself from habitual thoughts, feelings, behaviours and outcomes.

Joe works out of town which requires a stint on the M1, and he was prone to road rage enroute, which he found coloured the rest of his day. He allowed the idiot driving of others to negatively impact upon his heart rate, mindset and professional efficiency. Not good. So Joe had two choices: to keep doing what he'd always done to keep getting what he'd always gotten (plus any potential health, safety and unemployment consequences), or he could ACT, because Action Changes Things.

We had a deep discussion about the whys and wherefores and how he could best implement the non-attachment principle to his commute, and he promised to be earnest in his approach. Great. Joe set off for work and encountered the inevitable idiots, speeding, tailgating, cutting him up, you get the gist.

It's at this point historically when Joe's ego would have reared up and made it's point to the idiot drivers concerned, by e.g.: slowing down to infuriate tailgaters, racing under-takers, or gesticulating to those who'd cut him up. But how were those actions resourceful for Joe, how did those actions benefit Joe? Sure, his ego felt soothed and assuaged by having thwarted an idiot, but beyond that, did it make him happy in the deepest sense of the word? No. Did it put food in the fridge? No. Did it enhance his relationship with those he loves? No. All it did achieve was a superficial ego stroke. He was attached to an outcome where he must win and punish idiot drivers, but he was playing the exact same stupid games as those he was riled and competing against, whilst winning stupid prizes for the risk to life, or penalty points, he was taking.

Instead, Joe remained mindful of his ego's need to control, solve - and in his case - dominate all perceived opponents. On this day he decided not to engage and to deploy non-attachment. Rather than impose his will on things outside of his control and influence (notably the choices of other motorists), he was going to let them have at it and see how it improved his life. And sure enough the idiot drivers appeared, because they always do, but today they were not Joe's concern and he disengaged at every opportunity, letting them speed, tailgate, under-take, whatever, rather than 'punishing' them for it.

And how did he feel at journeys end?

Calm. Joe felt calm, mildly amused but entirely in the right headspace to operate at his most effective whilst at work, or loving, whilst at home later. He was no longer a seething bag of perspiring sinew requiring time to decompress before being able to function or relax. He'd let go of his attachment, his ego identity's need to punish or compete with idiot drivers and enjoyed the (mental) health benefits, enhanced work productivity and familial joys for it.

In the name of marginal gains - where tiny improvements compound to create huge effects - if we stop wasting our time and cognitive energy on BS that just doesn't matter in the broad scheme of our life's purpose, then it's like toppling the first domino, allowing all others to fall into place exactly as they should in perfect time. And having the health and loved ones still around us to enjoy them.

Begin today by asking yourself if this event (be it a tailgater, a rude shop assistant, whatever) is going to matter in five years' time and, if it isn't, drop it like a hot rock and don't engage, don't attach yourself to it. Instead, mindfully practice non-attachment and move the hell on to something that is going to move you closer in the direction of your dreams, goals, hopes, loves, and ambitions - because those are the aspects of life worth attaching yourself to.

You're either soaring or crawling


In every moment you have the chance to be who you want to be, or who you don't want to be. You have the chance to make your life more like you want it to be, or less like you want it to be. It's your call. It's always been your call.

You're either soaring or crawling, which would you prefer?


Karan Scott's Guided Meditations

Karan Scott's Too Relieved To Grieve | The Alternative Heartbreak Handbook memoir


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