“The root of suffering is attachment.” – Buddha
I wanted to discuss the character trait of detachment today. Detachment is not a passive state of mind. Detachment doesn’t mean that you don’t care about achieving things or finishing projects. Detachment is a state of mind that does not rely on an idea, material item, or outside circumstances or person. Detachment allows a person to be free from desire. Following the Buddhist mindset, detachment frees us from suffering.
Think about how our reality is in constant flux. This flux means that your body, your possessions, your relationships, and even what you think you know today, will change. Anything that changes is, by definition, an illusion. Subsequently, if you attach yourself to things that will change, you are just asking for pain and suffering. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done provided one of the best explanations for this state of detachment. His statement about having a “… mind like water…” is the best explanation of a detached state. Think about that for a moment. Water does not overreact to anything. It reacts exactly enough to accommodate changes to its environment. When you throw a pebble into a pond, the pond accepts the pebble without over compensating to the entry of the pebble through the water’s surface tension. Once the pebble has passed through the water, it generates a wave that expands outward from the point of entry. This expansion is equal and consistent. Once the ripples dissipate, the water returns to its normal state. It accepts change, reacts just enough to accommodate the change, and then returns to its original state.
A mind like water can be the same as the pond. Something happens with your job, your health, a relationship, or something you depend on. It upsets you for a moment. Like the pond, you let your mind return to your state of calm. It takes time to develop this mentality, but if you realize that nothing is permanent in life and accept this premise, life smooths out. The changes come but they do not adversely affect you as much. You react like anyone does when a loss comes. You are angry, upset, sad, for a time, but that time period is much shorter than someone who has not achieved this state of mind—the detached mind. You enjoy what you have when you have it, but when it goes away, you remain grateful.
When you pursue something, enjoy achieving a goal, we can use the same mindset. You enjoy the victory for a moment but realize that it is time to pursue another goal. The pursuit provides meaning in our lives. It gives us something to work toward. It is the time during the pursuit where the growth happens. We learn a new skill; we learn a new discipline; we learn a new way of solving problems. This we can carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Attachment causes suffering. It sets us up for failure because whatever you own, including your own body will atrophy and fade away. To avoid this, remember who and what you are. You are not the body. You are not the mind. You are a soul. Notice the wording. I did not say it is your soul. That would signify that your body owns a soul. That is not true. The soul uses a body. No one owns or possesses a soul. You are soul and it has a body for its use during this lifetime. This may take a while to wrap your mind around, because using the phrase: “my soul or your soul” is so common in today’s society.
If you can accept this idea—that you are soul—your life will smooth out. You will lose your attachment to your body, your mind, your possessions, your job, your friends and relatives. You will lose your attachment to an ideology. None of these things will last. You are only “using” them while you are here. When you pass away, die, or what I call translating, you merely move to a different state of consciousness. Your body doesn’t come with you. Your possessions don’t come with you. Your relatives don’t come with you. You leave your money, your toys, and your loved ones at some point. So, enjoy these things while you have them. There’s nothing wrong with being grateful for what you have now. Detachment will relieve a great deal of pain, when these things inevitably go away. A detached state of mind knows of our fleeting existence here. It knows that nothing is permanent. It expects nothing. It accepts the blessings that are present and strives for the sake of striving, because the striving is where the experience, learning, and growth are. Whatever happens, because of this striving, is not of concern.
Well, I’ve given you a lot to think about. Try getting your mind wrapped around some points I’ve made here. You’ll find that your life will take on a new meaning and you will be ok when things you depended on go away. (They all will at some point).
Until next time…