Zero Attachment, Zero Anxiety

I have put myself on a very strict health regimen this summer. It has nothing to do with eating or exercise; it is a thought/emotion regimen, which, in the end, has many more concrete results than any physical diet one could undertake. My program is the “zero attachment, zero anxiety” diet. Mind you, shooting for no anxiety or attachment at all is extremely ambitious, and not something I would have undertaken five or even two years ago. It was only after twenty-some years of meditation and daily “mental hygiene” (noticing and dissolving all thoughts that cause suffering) that it even occurred to me to shoot for absolute clarity.

So far, I am failing abjectly.

Nevertheless, my goal has helped me see many glaring issues that before seemed so minor as to be inconsequential. The most striking thing I’ve realized is that the thought of “magnetizing,” or drawing things toward me, contains the assumption that what I want is “out there” in the world and I have to go find it. It creates a feeling of distance and inaccessibility. When I release all attachment and all anxiety, I notice that the things I want feel present and inevitable, as real as humidity in summer air.

When the temperature of a day reaches the dew point, the moisture in the air, which is invisible to the eye, suddenly appears everywhere. It was always there; it just needed a certain temperature to become visible. Similarly, everything we need to make us happy is waiting for the “temperature” of our inner life to create the dew point where it can become material form. The dew point temperature of all your desires is a feeling of normalcy. It is not high excitement, nor grasping, nor yearning. All of those emotions contain anxiety and attachment — try them right now, you’ll see.

To give you an example of what this feels like, think about the feeling you have watching a beautiful sunrise. You may experience awe and intense gratitude, but you will not be thunderstruck, amazed or hysterical. A sunrise is glorious, but it is normal. We aren’t attached to the sun continuing to shine because we are sure it will.  If you can feel that way about the arrival of your soul mate or the success of your business, my recent experience convinces me it will appear around you like dew. Everything you want is there right now, waiting to become visible.

The emotions I’ve learned to soften and dissolve during my “no anxiety, no attachment” regimen are things like intense excitement and amazement. Even amazement implies that a good thing was unexpected or incredible, not that it was normal. Try replacing amazement with awe in your own life. Replace yearning with the knowledge that what you need is inevitably yours – that you are actually pushing it away with any grasping or yearning you may feel.

I realize this is exactly the opposite of the advice I wrote down years ago in my book, The Joy Diet. This is why we must always keep up with current research. I take it back and expect that all of you will graciously forgive me for my previous oversight, because I live and work with the most incredible people in the world — which is absolutely and totally normal.

27 replies
  1. Lily
    Lily says:

    This is an amazing (perhaps too strong of a word, given content…perhaps I should say, “Of course you said that” but still be impressed with the synchronicity).

  2. Angela
    Angela says:

    Thank you for this, Martha. My goal this summer is very much related to this: to give up wanting. After yeeeeears of desperately wanting/visionboarding/yearning for a calling or purpose of some sort, I decided a couple months ago to just stop. Just enjoy life and make of it what I could. And of course, that’s when the object of my desire fell right into my lap. (But it wouldn’t have mattered if it didn’t…in the meantime life had become so enjoyable without all that frantic wanting.)

    My experience, and your essay, remind me of a friend’s mom’s reaction the first time she met the man who would become her husband.She knew instantly, but there was no rush or thrill. “Huh,” she thought, “There you are.” 🙂

  3. Lizzie Larock
    Lizzie Larock says:

    Martha – I still absolutely adore the Joy Diet – what do you think is the real difference you’re talking about here. I never really thought about the Joy Diet in terms of attracting things to me. I always just thought of it as respite for my tired ass self. Slightly confused, but still in awe of your brilliance. Best–Lizzie Larock

  4. Barb Goldberg
    Barb Goldberg says:

    Dear Martha,
    This is a brilliant blog. I must concur with a previous commenter that I adored The Joy Diet and never interpreted the message as one where I needed to go out in the world and get anything. Tell me if I’m wrong, but were you assuming that a message of yearning was heard in Joy Diet? Are you sure that’s true?

    Recently, I started painting. For some unanswerable reason, I love doing it and have no attachment to it. My first attempt at art was chosen in a juried exhibition and now sits in a gallery. Sorry, but that’s crazy. I am convinced it is because I am just not attached to it. In fact, every time my art work is mentioned, I start laughing and I cannot explain why. It’s just so funny.

    Thanks for allowing me into your tribe.

    Take care and love,

  5. Marie Miller
    Marie Miller says:

    The joy diet was life changing for me.

    I learned how to tune in and permit what I genuinely wanted.

    Now I have permission to recognize and feast in this joy that is all around me.


  6. Dawn Kotzer
    Dawn Kotzer says:

    Your use of humidity [invisible to mere humans] turned dew, now visible is a beautiful metaphor, a visual anchor we can all absorb and appreciate. In the 4 years since I’ve taken your training, Martha, I have NOT been able to do anything close to a vision board…it always seemed grasping. During training I was the only one who could not, actually would not, present a WIG…again, wayyyyy toooo grasping.
    I thought it was me…ha! now i see we’re in this together. Thanks for this post…I”M NORMAL afterall!

  7. annie
    annie says:

    August 12, 2011. Aloha Martha, Dear, Dear Martha,
    Because of you on that day i realized i no longer needed to yearn. No more yearning to have more money, to live in Italy part time, to be completely healthy, to be a successful fashion stylist, to have the air fare to go see my beloved Dad before he completely doesn’t know me from alzheimers, to not live in constant fear, struggle and anxiety, depression, to feel some joy and love. Now, when i remember, I’m just say NO to yearning!
    You know Martha, last sept, i had radical stomach surgery. It didn’t work anymore. Why? Nothing but a lifetime of yearning!
    August 18, 2011, I turned 60. But now,like you, I now ‘struggle’ to stay on my new yearn free diet! Martha, we yearners have got to not yearn about not yearning. So now, when i catch myself yearning… 99% of the day, and stop it for that moment, I feel like i can breathe for the first time, every time. And then my stomach does not hurt! While i’m still tearing photos out of mags of Italy and yaking about living there….I’m sometimes not yearning. And when i’m not yearning ( I’m so done with visualizing/dream boarding etc), my breath is in my belly, where it has always wanted to be…not high in my chest…and life, for a moment feels a little better, not ‘amazing’;), just a little better.
    Martha, you have helped me so, so much over the years. Please let me know if I can ever help you.
    Warmest Mahalo,

  8. Ileana Grams-Moog
    Ileana Grams-Moog says:

    You are my hero. I cannot tell you how much your books have helped me. Like others, I never thought The Joy Diet was about yearning. For me, it has been about identifying what I want, and learning to take risks and to reward myself. My much-increased happiness in the past few years is due in large part to following your wonderful and funny advice. That said, I, too, have never been comfortable with yearning for something as a way to get it. For one thing, I have a friend who’s fabulous at that; the trouble is that what she yearns for and gets is not what she needs to become a happier person. So your post was calming and reassuring for me. Thanks.

  9. The Question Blog
    The Question Blog says:

    I have heard many people complain that they got what they wanted when they stopped wanting it. They call it bad timing and is often a new reason to feel bad, but I really believe that your perspective shines a new light on that. Thank you! 🙂

  10. Chris
    Chris says:

    …thank you for this amazing insight. I’ve been stuggling along with the theoretical side of how this (quantum, emotion, intuition, guidance) all seems to be coming together in my life, and its very difficult for me to conceptualize how the pulling versus the pushing works in my emotional brain as I visualize. As I ponder what you’ve said, it becomes clear, that anxiety and attachment are to be practised away…this is really just incredible. For those of us who tend to overthink this just “speaks”. Thank you Martha for yet another contribution to “our” ongoing awakening…

  11. Chris
    Chris says:

    …thank you for this amazing insight. I’ve been stuggling along with the theoretical side of how this (quantum, emotion, intuition, guidance) all seems to be coming together in my life, and its very difficult for me to conceptualize how the pulling versus the pushing works in my emotional brain as I visualize. As I ponder what you’ve said, it becomes clear, that anxiety and attachment are to be practised away…this is really just incredible. For those of us who tend to overthink this just “speaks”. Thank you Martha for yet another contribution to “our” ongoing awakening…

  12. anne harpum
    anne harpum says:

    Hi Martha,
    I am confused by this blog, although loved the challenge! Every time I try to think about things I am hoping for in my life I immediately get anxiety. I can’t seem to get to that point you are talking about where I accept it as inevitable. For example, I have been keen on emigrating to Canada for a while now but come up against obstacles all the way – exams to practise my profession, my mother with onset of Dementia, my ex and kids father who is abusive…… it just continues, but I keep visiting the place and dream of waking there to a new life. Also, I was left some money and thought I would start a holiday rental condo but every time I think about it I just get anxiety!!! Am I crazy, do I really NOT want these things or am I just going about it in the wrong way. I was so excited by your blog but cant seem to do it!!! Thanks Martha, Anne x

  13. Ingrid
    Ingrid says:

    I really liked this entry. I too have felt that the whole “magnetizing” idea as feeling like you’re grasping – trying to DO something to make that thing pull, magnetically, towards you. I love the idea of comparing manifestation to how you feel when you see a beautiful sunset. Awe. Appreciation. Love. Normalcy. I get it! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Amy
    Amy says:

    Love the dew point analogy! I always hated in interviews when I’d be asked the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” (or 10? or 20?) Now that it IS 20 years since those questions were first asked of me, I know that I was right in my intuitive response that whatever I imagined from my twenty-something self would not, could not come close to the experiences as I have lived them. It was literally beyond my power to imagine. And yet, whenever I have gotten really clear on something I want, clear enough that I write it down, I ALWAYS get it. Not always in the form I imagined, and sometimes too much exactly what I asked for. (Once when I was out of work I wrote down my ideal job description–it involved getting to meet and talk to famous authors and speakers who thrill and motivate me. I landed a job as an account executive with a speakers bureau and I did indeed get to meet many fascinating people. One thing that I had left out of my list–a paycheck, salary, $$$. I lasted 7 months there on straight commission, during which entire time my total income was under $3000.)
    I think the piece that helps to release the yearning and attachment while transcending the grasping material sense is seeking a more spiritual perspective. That is what calms us down to the point that the dew point gets into a range where all our fondest desires are manifest. I have found that even when I’m unclear on my concept of God, I can still pray for and receive guidance–to my angels, guides, higher self, All That Is. That’s what helps lift me out of the grasping materialistic energy and into a space of gratitude and possibility.

  15. Sue Mitrisin
    Sue Mitrisin says:

    Hi Martha,

    When you said you had changed your thinking expressed in a previous book, you reinforced my firm belief that life is continuous learning and change. Your example proves that even those who are “the best of the best” find new enlightenment simply by keeping the mind open to learning and change. And, that’s why you are “the best”! Thanks so much.


  16. Kiki
    Kiki says:

    Well, to be honest: I don’t ‘feel’ this one businesslike.

    Assignments for the business in my case are mostly the result of effort. As I don’t know exactly how to increase it, I just try a lot of things. Something always comes out of it.


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