Attachment to an Outcome

Today was the first day that I really put our one-car-commitment to the test, biking farther than was convenient for me and, frankly, a little further than I mentally was comfortable with.  I had slept poorly last night, and woke up feeling cranky and tired. As I watched my husband drive away to work this morning, I was sorely tempted to just grab my keys and hop in my car. 

But a funny thing happened. As I rode, I felt my tension begin to slip away. I felt myself settle into the slower pace of the bike as cars zoomed past me. I became attentive to my muscles, especially my glute muscles, working to propel me forward. I found myself becoming proud of being a self-powered machine, crossing a distance that would have just been a 10 minute car ride.

Before riding back I had a great conversation with a friend and mentor. As we sat with coffee in our hands and the warm summer air filling our lungs, we talked about life and faith and everything in between. I love talking with her because I always learn so much from her; it’s just one more confirmation for me that we are all more connected than our compartmentalized-prone minds would like to think. She, a Buddhist, and I, a Catholic, share so much spiritual common ground. We may use different words or manifest it in different ways, but in the end it’s really all about love. A continual reminder that everything is gift.

One of the things we talked about is attachment. Why is it that we hinge so much on particular outcomes? Why are we attached to things turning out a certain way, or achieving some sort of contrived ideal? The thought occurred to me as we spoke that I would never fear failure if I wasn’t so attached to a specific outcome. If I concentrated more on the process, on the journey, then whatever happened at the end of the road would simply be an extension of the journey. There would be no “fail.”

I think this concept of attachment can really be a hindrance to many Christians’ sense of evangelization. I see so often that the evangelizers seem so attached to a specific outcome that it stops being about the people involved, about love, even about God. It becomes evangelizing for evangelization’s sake. One more notch for the Lord’s team, right? But this is wrong! Part of the whole purpose of evangelization is to spread love. If there is no love in the process, there can be no love in the outcome. So often we fail to accept where people are at because we are so fixated on where we want them to be. True evangelization is simply bringing people closer to a life fully immersed and exploding with love. It’s not about committing to certain practices or saying certain words or signing on the dotted line. It’s about love. Love, and love, and more love.

In any case, this message of detachment was further reiterated as I rode my bike home. Here I am, far from a avid cyclist and steadily pedaling along on my trusty Marin hybrid. I didn’t have any fancy bike clothes. To be honest, I know I kind of looked like a dork (and a slow one, at that).

As I went, there were several occurrences when sleeker, faster cyclists passed me at speeds that I thought were likely humanly impossible at the time. I was breathing heavily up a hill, happy that I had the guts to even stay on my bike, and three 20-something guys on fancy road bikes passed me easily, laughing and joking and making it look like it was the easiest thing in the world. It was tempting to be discouraged.

But I caught myself. What outcome am I attached to?, I thought, remembering the conversation I had had just a half hour before.  I am not attempting to achieve cycling perfection here. My purpose is to be in solidarity with those who don’t always have a car at their disposal, to recognize the value of physical work, to accept and embrace voluntary displacement.  I needed to be detached enough from the need to be “good” at what I was doing in order to get the good out of what I was doing.

In the end, the journey really was the destination, anyway…I just had to let go of the idea of “achieving,” sit back, and enjoy the ride.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by ProudHusband on August 10, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    An interesting insight about evangelization. Paul, writing to a community very much attached to self-comparison and competition, says: “…if I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13:2)

    As you are always reminding me, our intent determines whether our actions lead to right outcomes. By offering up one’s gifts to God, the source of those blessings, one realizes that it is “no longer I” that acts. (I suspect our Buddhist brothers and sisters might have a thing or two to say about entering into this state of ego-less action.)

    Of course, as your husband, I am most pleased that you made it home safely, no matter the speed!


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