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Something that comes up a lot in the coaching sessions with many people is detachment. I think you all know the famous quote by Buddha: “The root of all suffering is attachment.” This quote alone has put many people on a path to obtain detachment from pretty much everything in their lives. But once they are on that path, they discover that it doesn’t give them the results they were hoping for.
I have also done a lot of inner searching to release myself from suffering and achieve a more detached mindset. But for quite some time, this search caused a lot more confusion and pain. Because it made me lose the motivation to do anything. Nothing seemed to be important anymore. At that point, detachment ruined my life.
Why Detachment Seems to Take Away The Meaning of Life
This is something that happens to many people. I’ve discovered this is normal and somehow seems to be a natural progression. It’s part of the learning process and the change of perspective we all need to go through when we transition to a new way of thinking and feeling.
It’s exactly in this period that you know too much to go back to the dependent and attached mindset you had before but you’re not yet ready to fully understand what detachment means and how it will impact your life. At this point, it feels like all meaning of life has been taken away from you. Nothing feels important enough to pursue with high energy and total dedication.
Often it feels like you’re just waiting for things to happen in your life and you’ve lost the drive to pursue the things that motivated you before. And you believe it’s because you made steps in your spiritual development and you’re closer to a full awakening. But, how come you still feel so terrible?
How People Think Detachment Will Impact Their Lives
And this is exactly what happens to so many of you. It happened to me too. You try to put your newly acquired knowledge about detachment into practice while you still hold on firmly to so many of your old beliefs.
Beliefs that have taught you that love and affection for other people and things or activities are synonymous with suffering once you lose them. Of course, that leads you to think you don’t care about what you detach from. It makes people think detachment is hard to achieve because they don’t want to stop caring for the things they love.
How to Understand Love and Detachment
I’ve heard it so often: “It’s impossible to not feel attached to someone you love.” or: “When I don’t feel attached to this, I don’t care about it.”
But, what if I told you that’s simply not true? The opposite is true. Once you detach from someone or something, only then can you truly love it. I know this sounds contradicting, that’s because we’ve all been raised with a different perspective.
A perspective that is limiting us to conditional love. A perspective that attaches your love to certain requirements and expectations from your external environment. And once those requirements and expectations are not met, you stop to care and love.
True love doesn’t know any requirements. It simply is. It’s not influenced by your external circumstances or what others say or do. When you still feel some sort of emotional attachment to someone, you’re not free to love unconditionally.
And true love equals freedom. This has nothing to do with your actions in the world toward other people. It’s only about your inner world, your thoughts and feelings, and how the world impacts them.
Let me give you an example. So many of you are upset and saddened by the fact that your spiritual growth seems to have separated you from long-time friends. You don’t vibe in the same frequency anymore but accepting this and moving on to new possibilities is extremely hard. Instead, you hold on to what once was and force yourself into situations you don’t feel happy and comfortable with anymore.
This is because you still feel attached to your external environment and to who you were before. Of course, this is completely normal and it’s a logical reaction to feel sad and lost or stuck in life when this happens.
It affects your inner peace. And when something disturbs your inner peace, you’re not free. Because the world around you determines whether you experience inner peace or not. As long as that is the case, your freedom is as limited as your capacity to detach your inner peace from what happens in your world and even in your own body.
Putting Detachment Into Perspective
Now, I’m not saying you need to become a Saint and never be affected by anything that happens in your external world. Only a handful of us will get to that point and I’m pretty sure that will usually be a very gradual process and one will naturally grow into that kind of perception of the world. It’s not achieved by forcing yourself to get there, instead, it happens as a side-effect of your spiritual development.
I’m not anywhere near that level of inner peace yet but I am starting to see glimpses of it. And I now finally understood how attachment indeed is the root of all suffering. And I can now also see how attachment puts limits on your existence in the world. It puts limits on how deeply you can love, and how you interact and behave with and around other people. It puts limits on your beliefs and what you can achieve in your life.
At the same time, I am not aspiring to detach from absolutely everything. We cannot expect to maintain our inner peace when we’re in a life-threatening situation, or when we’re fired from our job. When a loved one passes away, or when we’re in any type of emergency.
Only the enlightened ones among us will lovingly accept the moment they breathe their last breath, without fighting and struggling to hold on to life, trying to gasp for one more breath of air. As I mentioned before, I’m sure that time will come for all of us as long as we continue on our path of self-actualization and realization. But insisting on trying to feel and perceive ourselves this way will only lead to more pain and suffering.
This is supposed to be a relatively smooth transition, just continue to go deep within and let it come when the time is there.
Achieving Inner Freedom Through Detachment
From my experience, I can say that the more you can detach, the more freedom you feel, and the more intense you can experience life. When fewer things hold you back from being who you are and being as authentic as you can be, life becomes more colorful and fun.
So, while detachment ruined my life at some point, I can now safely say that my capacity to experience and maintain my inner peace has grown with my ability to detach from my external circumstances. And I can see and feel how it has heightened my capability to remain authentic and be more compassionate with and around other people, without feeling the need to give in to little white lies to avoid uncomfortable situations.
It’s as if it has given me more confidence and self-esteem and very often it feels like I’ve become a better communicator and somehow always have access to the inspiration that guides me to know what, and especially, how to say certain things.
Looking back, it’s clear to me the main reason I was able to get to this point is that I aim to take full responsibility for my inner experience and how I perceive the world around me at all times. I cannot control everything in my external world but I can control how I react to it. And, ultimately, it’s my choice whether I let my inner peace be disrupted or not.
This is what I call radical responsibility, and I’ll talk more about that in a future article.