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The Art of Detachment
Stalin, Mumbai

Last week we explored the idea of detachment in the context of accepting the inevitable. “You cannot take anything with you when you go”, is a phrase we have all heard. At a deeper level this also means “nothing belongs to me”, and at an even deeper level it means the illusion that things do belong to us is what kills our happiness.

For most of us however, the practice of detachment goes against the grain of our conditioning. Many resist the suggestion (due to attachment!) that detachment is essential to awaken awareness and re-empower oneself. Behind the resistance there is a perception that detachment is cold-hearted approach to life, or that it is a way of avoiding responsibility. As we have seen the opposite is true. Only when you can ‘release’ what you are attached to, do you create the space for ‘the new’ to show up. And only when you are detached in situations of crisis or chaos can you remain stable and be of service to others who are affected by the emotions that must follow all attachment.

But how do you detach? How do you step back and create the space to see more clearly and be free of the many influences around you. Here are seven methods to detach. Each is useful depending on the situation and circumstances.

1 Change your relationship from possessor to trustee

Use when you get too attached to your possessions. Remind yourself nothing actually belongs to you. You cannot own anything (from a spiritual point of view). However, you are a trustee of everything in your life until the time comes for someone else to have it in their life!

2 Let go

Use when you are holding to a specific opinion/position. Next time you find yourself in an argument disarm the other by simply saying, “I don’t agree with you but I accept that is your point of view. Tell me more so that I may understand why you see it that way”

3 Practice giving

Use when you recognize yourself to be always wanting/desiring something from others. When you want something you are already attached to the object of your desire. Almost all of us learn this habit from the moment we are born. It sounds like, “Gimme gimme gimme!” Break this habit by consciously practicing giving free of any desire for anything in return.

4 Mentally rehearse different outcomes

Use when you are scared of change and you are attached to, and comfortable with, the way things are, or when you are holding on to your some form of self-limitation (I can’t). All the top performers in most sports now realize the power that comes from mental rehearsal or visualization. Take a few minutes to visualize future changes as a preparation to embrace those changes when they do arrive. See yourself doing what you previously thought you couldn’t.

5 Don’t identify with the situation/outcome

Use in any process, anytime and anywhere in life. This simply means don’t make your happiness dependent on something outside your self, especially the results of yours or others actions. Be happy whatever the outcome of anything. Happiness is a choice and a decision, not a random experience or a dependency. Do good, and in the doing of the good, you will notice happiness arising naturally.

6 Imagine someone else dealing with the situation – how would they deal with it?

Use when your attachment is obviously influencing your ability to interact calmly with others. Take a moment to imagine how someone whose wisdom you respect would handle the situation. This loosens your grip on ‘your way’ and your habits of reaction. If they are nearby, sit with them and ask them how they would respond.

7 Look at the situation through the eyes of the other party

Appropriate in all conflict situations – this forces you to mentally release your attachment to one point of view, from your position, and to generate understanding and empathy. Ask, listen, ask, listen, ask, listen, is the secret to understanding the others point of view. As you do you will see though the eyes of another and free yourself in the process.

Question: Which of the above strategies could you use immediately?

Reflection: Take a moment and reflect on why you become attached to other people, and why love is not attachment.

Action: Make a plan to use each of the above over the next seven days or seven weeks. Then do it.


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