For those on the spiritual path, the Buddha's teaching that attachment is the root of suffering is a familiar truth. We know that when we deny the impermanence of this world, we set ourselves up for the rise of painful emotions. And yet the knowledge of suffering to come is often not enough to curb our reflex to hold onto what cannot stay. We are human, after all.
That’s why rituals can be so transformative when we want to release an attachment that is causing us harm. Through ceremony, we create a tangible experience that helps us embody ideas that usually live in the abstract. We can create a turning point with a clear before and after.
One of the best practices for releasing unhelpful attachments is a cord-cutting ritual, a practice that severs the energetic ties that are keeping you connected and attached to people and situations that are no longer serving your highest good. When a cord-cutting ritual is successful, you regain control of your energy and are free to be more intentional about how you direct it— and who you share it with.
How to Know When It’s Time for a Cord-Cutting Ritual
While it’s true that attachment brings suffering, it is also true that we are relational beings. Nourishing, compassionate relationships with others are just as vital to our spiritual wellbeing as being able to let go and accept change. Releasing our attachments to others does not mean renouncing our need for connection. Instead, it means letting go of our need to control and accepting the transient nature of our time together.
Cutting your energetic bond with another only becomes necessary when your attachment to this person is draining your life force and causing you suffering. Importantly, cutting cords is not the same thing as cutting a person out of your life. Instead, it can be thought of as calling the energy you’ve given them back to you and returning the energy that you’ve taken on from them. If you’re experiencing an increased need for control in your relationship or taking on someone else’s burdens as your own, a cord-cutting ritual can help you restore your equilibrium—without ending the relationship.
On the other hand, cord-cutting rituals also become necessary when a person has left your life and you feel yourself getting stuck in the past, unable to move on from your attachment to them. Cord-cutting rituals are commonly practiced in the wake of a breakup when letting go of what you once had seems impossible.
How to Practice a Cord-Cutting Ritual
The key to doing a cord-cutting ritual is visualization: Visualizing yourself cutting the emotional cord between you and someone else helps your mind truly accept and comprehend that you are releasing this attachment. Since this image—the image of a literal cord being cut—is the heart of the ritual, the ritual can be adapted and made entirely your own. However, there are some basic steps to help you get started.
First, you can practice the ritual in meditation. To do this, you’ll engage in your standard sitting meditation practice, focusing on your breath, your thoughts, and the present moment.
Once you feel grounded in the present moment, you can call to mind the person you intend to cut cords with, visualizing a cord that connects you both.
Then, in your visualization, imagine yourself using scissors to cut this cord. Out loud or internally, verbalize what you are doing. You can say, I release this attachment that no longer serves me. These are not magic words you need to adhere to. Speaking with genuine intention is what matters most, no matter how you phrase it.
When you feel that the ritual is complete, you can exit the meditation.
For truly stubborn connections, you can practice this same ritual with props, tying a string between two candles and using real scissors to cut the literal and metaphorical cord. You can return to the ritual as many times as you wish.
How Cord-Cutting Rituals Can Give You More Freedom in Your Relationships
When you perform a cord-cutting ritual, you’re putting an intention into action, thus empowering yourself to shift your mindset and behaviors. When you resolve to protect and reclaim your energy and release unhealthy energetic attachments to others, you have a greater capacity for healthy, grounded engagement, be it with the person in question or someone new.
Not only does this reduce your emotional suffering, but it helps restore a sense of personal agency in what may otherwise be challenging times. More often than not, it feels as if our heart’s longings and attachments are stronger than our mind’s will. Cord-cutting rituals create space for us to reclaim our personal power and learn how to embody it when dealing with others.
Explore how restorative yoga can help restore our relationships.