By Victor Bowleg
“Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.”
Our greatest power is self-control and being able to detach our minds from external highs and lows thereby allowing us to navigate life’s difficulties, challenges, and victories, etc. Yes, even victories! When things are not going well, it’s important not to get too low and even when things are going great it’s important not to get too high in excitement. Instead, heed Jay Shetty’s words. Shetty, a former monk in training, states in a recent interview, “Be equipoised and balanced in equanimity”. Not being too excited in pleasure, or too depressed in pain, allows one to navigate every situation that life presents.
Tamara Lechner, in 5 Steps to Detaching for a Happier Life, indicates thatwhen we are attached to an object, goal, dream, money, social status, jobs, or even another person, feelings arise that may convince us that “if I don’t have what I seek to obtain I will not be whole.” We often attach ourselves to an inanimate object, possessions (e.g. a car), or an unbalanced relationship (e.g. by allowing our partner to define us or defining our life based on a partner). Thus, if the relationship ended, the attachment to the relationship may create anxiety, stress, and depression, fear, anger, jealousy, hopelessness, sadness, disconnection, pride, vanity, and more. Anything that is used to describe who you are can be a sign attachment. Lechner states that once we remove the description the “me’ alone remains.
Attachment originates with the Ego. The Ego is a construct that is built through years of conditioning and convinces us that we are a separate entity disconnected from all living and non-living things. The Ego is an image of who we believe ourselves to be. And when reality does not match this image, there is friction in our lives that results in pain.
Pain caused by one’s attachment to the Ego may come when life doesn’t equal our expectations according to Matt Valentine in his blog The Beginner’s Guide to Letting Go and Becoming Enlightened Through Non-Attachment. A good example is that of losing a loved one and coming to grips with the fact that the person who meant so much to you is gone forever. We may have lived our daily lives on an unconscious level with the expectation that the person would always be there for us.
Lechner says true detachment allows deep involvement due to a lack of attachment to outcome. True detachment provides a deep connection to our feelings. For example, actors who are immersed in a role recognize that as an actor one can step outside of the assigned character and be objective about the character and the performance. The ability to step outside oneself and reflect is akin to not attaching who you are to any desired outcome.
Remez Sasson references a story from 101 Zen Stories in his article Detachment and the Two Monks, the story of two monks who were walking form village to village. The monks, on their journey, came across a large puddle full of mud on their path. At the brink of the puddle they saw a young woman afraid to cross the path. One monk offered to carry the young woman on his back to the other side of the puddle. After both monks and the young woman (on the one monk’s back) crossed the puddle the monks continued walking in silence for hours. Upon reaching their destination the monk who had not assisted the woman could no longer remain silent and exclaimed: “How could you carry that woman on your back? We are monks and are not allowed to touch women.” The monk who carried the woman on his back over the puddle smiled and responded: “I have left the girl at the other side of the puddle, but it seems you are still carrying her with you!” This story demonstrates the importance of detachment. When we focus in a repetitive manner on unpleasant and negative thoughts (due to our preconceived outcome) it is like carrying a heavy load on our back. It’s important to release these thoughts and learn to detach from these disturbing thoughts (via mediation, prayer, and other methods) resulting in happiness. Thus, we gain our power back byletting go.
When many people think of detachment they believe it means giving up relationships and possessions, but Suzuki Roski states, “Detachment doesn’t mean giving up the things of the world but accepting that they go away.” What we detach from is not other people or our emotions but rather our neurotic self-centered attempts to make things and relationships permanent or to have them be just the way we want for our own selfish motives. The Bhagavad Gita addressing detachment, according to Jay Shetty, calls for being close to everything but not letting it consume or own you. This means being able to overcome Ego with an awareness of impermanence. Living a normal life without attaching ourselves to any of the things that are a part of our life. This doesn’t mean we stop caring about the people or things in our life, rather we appreciate them even more because we are aware that they won’t last forever. For example, when we pick a flower we can enjoy the smell and its beauty but also accept that the flower will eventually wilt and die. Similarly, we can choose to live our lives savoring every moment and knowing that in each moment everything can change.
Detachment is a state of mind requiring us to be able to go with the flow of things and respect the impermanence of life.
Contact Victor: firstname.lastname@example.org.