Detachment is often mistaken for indifference, callousness or apathy.
This incorrect understanding of the state of detaching assumes we distance ourselves from others so that we don’t have to deal with their woes. In essence this is a way of protecting ourselves from feeling our emotions.
This is the exact opposite of the meaning of detachment that Buddhism teaches.
Detachment is the state that allows us to truly care for another without interfering with another’s process, but trusting it by being a true support for others.
Detachment from the Buddhist point of view frees us from partiality or bias—from clinging to our opinion thus liberating the mind to explore ways that truly bless.
When one is hanging onto one side of an equation—one opinion of the situation—essentially judging and dividing things up between right or wrong, good or bad—one sees through a narrow tunnel, omitting the opposite side, having already judged it as erroneous.
This is clinging to some opinion, which allows little freedom of movement and exploration.
Just try to walk forward while clinging to the chair.
We may think we are open and broadminded, but that is often an illusion. This illusion/delusion puffs up the ego. This is attachment.
We are attached to a particular view, a desired outcome, and are avoiding or condemning that which is the opposite.
The way to break through the illusion that we are open and broadminded is by noting how we will feel if things don’t come out the way we desire. Will there be disappointment? Concern? Worry? Sadness?
If so, we are definitely attached to outcome, and not as free as we thought.
Another way we can be aware of attachment is to note when we get defensive. How do we feel when we want to argue our point, prove our case, or explain it for the second or third time? This is resistance.
When I find myself resisting someone’s opinion I sense a lot of hot energy running around in me.
I also feel some degree of irritation, anger or disgust. I want to push back and fight this “incorrect” view.
Ah, yes, the old fight or flight syndrome.
By noting how heated up or uncomfortable we get during discussions where opinions vary, it is wise to pause, stop and breathe. This opens us to new options. The heat dies down and allows for calmness to set in.
This is detachment. It is also caring, because we have decided not to project our emotions and views onto someone else. Instead we desire a give and take relationship, speaking and listening to the other.
Now something new can develop. Something that hadn’t been there before—a new solution.
By carefully watching the mind and noting what is taking place, we find conditions change. They loosen up.
Each time we are willing to sit with difficult emotions and feelings helps us to become more compassionate to ourselves and others.
How hard do you find it is sit quietly, with no agenda, and just watch your mind?
“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Blaise Pascal
How difficult is it to detach from the way you want things to be, the way you wish they were?
We may be under the illusion that we are a caring person when all the time we are trying to change “what is” by attaching ourselves to the things we like and find attractive.
And we run away—distance ourselves—from the people and situations we don’t like.
True detachment opens us to all the available options, not just the ones that meet our fancy.
By sitting with difficult emotions, we learn to bear discomfort rather than torment.
A biased viewpoint might seem to protect us but what it really does is build walls of loneliness.
If our desire is to truly be a helpful, caring person I suggest noticing when we are passionate about changing someone’s opinion, or attempting to change any condition, without first going through the process of accepting what is taking place.
Detachment is the path of meeting each obstacle with equanimity and discovering that this very obstacle really is our path. We need to engage with it, not run away or try to fix it.
As we notice how we are being affected, without running away or getting distracted, we learn something new and valuable. As we continue to return to the breath, let go, breathe again and accept however we are feeling, things change on their own. For everything is impermanent.
There is unpleasantness in this world. It happens. How do we respond? Do we begin fighting, thinking and speaking angrily?
Or will we take time to care for how we are feeling and notice what ideas or beliefs we are clinging to?
Through awareness of what we are thinking and feeling, breathing through these difficult emotions, we find they pass. As we authentically feel all that is taking place within us, we begin to see that we don’t have to fix anything, simply be truthful.
Wisdom arises; ideas come as we speak truth to ourselves.
Trying to fix something is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
One cannot release what has not first been accepted—engaged with, cried over, mourned and grieved. This is how we assimilate life and grow through experiences.
And believe it or not, each experience nourishes us as we learn deep acceptance, for every event and circumstance is part of our path.
The universe does not waste a single tear. All sadness and anguish is used to loosen the hard-packed soil of the soul, to free us from cynicism or bitterness, and express the true radiance of our soul.