Life and Inspiration

Detachment

Today I am happy to feature my husband, José,  sharing his understanding of detachment. José is a reluctant writer – who has been co-erced by me to get back to writing!  He writes at our shared blog From 7Eight on some of his other loves – food, travel and books!

NoAttachments

About twenty years ago, I signed up for a retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. And in one of my first meetings with my spiritual director, Fr. Peter Ribes, S.J., he spoke of praying for the grace of detachment. Or as he succinctly put it, ‘not having any attachment.’

My initial reaction was to wonder whether I had made a mistake in signing up for this retreat. Because in my mind, not having an attachment, meant giving up or renouncing. Like a Buddhist monk, who has given up his worldly possessions and lives on ‘dana‘ or charity of others.

But Fr. Ribes  explained the concept to me in the context of Ignatian Spirituality; surrendering to God and trusting God enough that no matter what happens, “God’s grace will be enough for me.”

But what was clear from his explanation was that ‘having worldly possessions was acceptable; what was not acceptable was the craving or attachment for these possessions.’  Or in the words of Ali bin Abi Thalib

Detachment-is-not-that

Years later, I got interested in Vipassana meditation. And having joined up for a ten day course at Dhamma Giri at Igatpuri, I realised that the central purpose of the mediation was to overcome suffering by eradicating craving and aversion, i.e. the obverse of craving.

Again detachment or no attachment. Only at Dhamma Giri, the rationale behind detachment is the fact that ‘nothing is permanent’ or annica. As such, any craving or aversion will invite suffering as the object of the craving or aversion is impermanent.

Realising that nothing is permanent, the mediators were taught to observe their breathing and be aware of the sensations on the body, as techniques to eradicate craving and aversion. But the sum and substance was the same grace of detachment that I was first introduced to by Fr. Ribes.

I believe that I have been singularly blessed to have been exposed to both Ignation Spirituality as also Vipassana meditation. Whilst the former taught me that detachment is a grace based on acceptance of God’s Grace, the latter helped me appreciate detachment at the individual level.

At the end of the day, what I have come to realise is that being detached helps one navigate the shoals and uncertainties of daily living. By learning to accept that nothing is permanent and not everything can be controlled, I am accepting the world as it is and not as I wish it to be.

I think that this dialogue from Volume 2 of The Prayer of the Frog by Anthony de Mello,  S.J. best illustrates my understanding of the concept of detachment.

Traveller: “What kind of weather are we going to have today?”

Shepherd: “The kind of weather I like.”

“How do you know it will be the kind of weather you like?”

“Having found out, sir, that I cannot always get what I like, I have learnt always to like what I get. So I am quite sure we will have the kind of weather I like.”

I would end this post on a note of caution. I have often seen people become so detached that their behaviour can well be labeled as ‘criminal’ detachment. It manifests itself in various ways. Like someone who let the interior designer run amok in his new apartment, because having given the assignment he chose to remain aloof thinking he was detached. Or becoming fatalistic and accepting injustice in the name of detachment.

This post is written for the letter ‘D’ for the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014. José and I are doing the Challenge on our blog,on From 7Eight


Discover more from Everyday Gyaan

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

An inspirational writer, a creativity and writing trainer/coach, I write about life, gratitude, healing, wellness, relationships at Everyday Gyaan. I offer training/coaching to anyone looking to explore their creativity and heal through writing via The Frangipani Creative, located in Secunderabad, India. You can also find me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, Bytes of Gyaan, on Substack.

88 Comments on “Detachment

  1. This is such a profound post… It got me thinking..But it’s so hard to be detached no? I find it really hard..at any point in time there are so many things that I want..

    1. Detachment is not about wanting something that you require; the important thing is being able to to without it, in case you cannot have it.

    1. At one level, is certainly is a ‘God’ thing. But at another level, being detached is essential for survival of the individual.

    1. And a topic for intellectual debate and to preach about. But so very difficult to practice, in daily life.

  2. Wow, the concept of detached attachment ! This post is very deep, and sets the train of thoughts in motion. It is very difficult to be detached, especially when the natural bond is very strong, but all wheels of spirituality speak of this detachment as a necessity for life. That we may own something, but that something may not own us !
    Thanks for this thoughtful piece, Jose !! and Thanks, Corinne, for sharing this with us all !!

    1. Being detached is indeed a necessity for survival, on a day to day basis. The bottom line is that ‘nothing should own you’, as Ali Bin Abi Thalib succinctly put it.

  3. Ever since I have heard about Vipassana, I have this deep desire to attend the course. Jose is lucky to have been to both Vipassana and Ignation Spirituality.

    1. Vipassana has to be experienced to be understood. Reading about or discussing the techniques does lead to detachment.

  4. Thought-provoking post! While I’m not a materialistic person, there are certain things of sentimental value that I am attached to. People who are constantly striving to obtain possessions are pretty shallow, in my opinion. It’s all superficial and in the grand scheme of life, what do they matter?

    1. I cannot but agree with the last line of your comment. In a line, it sums up what detachment is all about.

  5. I loved the post and the quotes, Jose! Detachment of the kind you described is the path to true happiness. Gosh, I have a way to go. Sentimental attachment to things as I am learning is not good for health. These days, I ask myself, will this matter to me three months from now? And my answer surprises me sometimes.

    Again, wonderful post. May I add a quote from Pooh:
    “What day is it?” asked Pooh.
    “It is Today” squeaked Piglet.
    “My favorite day!” said Pooh.

    Thank you!

    1. What’s that about taking the first step…. The fact that you realise that you have a long way to go, implies progress. I like the question about whether something will matter after three months. And that quote from from Pooh; all about living in the present moment.

  6. Your husband has shared a thought provoking piece… I enjoyed his little warning at the end too. the weather quote reminds me of what the Danes say about the weather here. There is no such thing as bad weather only bad choice of clothing… I must admit I am fairly attached to my winter coats – but only when it’s freezing 🙂

    1. I like the Danes attitude to the weather. I wish we can cultivate such an attitude towards other things too, whilst at the same time not using detachment to escape route.

  7. Detachment frees us but giving up in the name of detachment doesn’t. Losing loved ones makes you realize nothing in life is permanent and everybody leaves in the end. Renouncing attachments is preached in the Bhagavad Gita too. Great post, Corinne. Loving your A to Z posts 🙂

    1. Yes, Sulekha, the Bhagavad Gita too preaches about being fully involved in whatever we do, without a fixation about the outcome. Another approach to renouncing attachments.

  8. While I am exposed to these thoughts (from my schooling at Ramakrishna Mission Boarding Schools), really enjoyed reading it. I think I practice these to some extent and this was a good validation and reflection for myself. Thanks.

    1. I’m glad that you found the the post to be a good validation of your practice. It is indeed gratifying when someone who practices detachment, agrees with the thoughts conveyed in the post.

  9. There is a reason I can relate to this post. My own guru specifies a wonderful tenet: Do every task with complete commitment and zero attachment. This means that we must do the task for the pleasure that it offers, not for the outcome that may emerge at the end of it.

    Wonderful to see someone echo that sentiment through this post, Jose. I particularly liked the ‘Prayer of the Frog’ extract.

    Stay blessed 🙂

    1. I guess there are many paths to the same well of wisdom. I believe that your Guru’s path is based on the Krishna’s instructions to Arjuna in the Bhagavat Gita.

  10. This was a wonderful post to read about an important aspect of any sincere spiritual quest. Thanks Jose and thanks Corinne for having him guest write this post! The first picture has been a delight ever since I first saw it on the net somewhere. It speaks so nicely of something so deep! The last word of caution in this post is also very appropriate, and very important to remember.

    1. Yes, it is so each to use detachment to escape the difficulties we face in life. Hence I thought that a word of caution was required.

    1. Yes indeed, getting rid of cravings is really a hard task. Mainly because, cravings or aversions are so insidious and difficult to distinguish from genuine needs.

  11. Very profound post. I had to read it twice to get a clear understanding of the thoughts explained. I am glad to read such thoughtful posts through this challenge!

  12. I loved this post…it gave me a reminder of lines I read few days ago…there are two ways to live our life – a) We keep trying to achieve our aspirations and b) we be content with whatever we have….and yeah I loved last lines of your post…

    I too am participating in A to Z challenge and tagged your post in mine today..

    1. Thanks, Hemant, for visiting and tagging the post. Yes, life would be so much simpler if we could be content with whatever we have. But I guess none of us are free of craving; otherwise, we would attain nirvana.

    1. Yes, the ‘statutory warning’ is very important. Otherwise, we will blame detachment for the woes and miseries in our lives.

  13. I’m not very possessive of things in general, and I do believe the reverse is true too. For the most part, nothing owns me. It is hard at times not to let that happen, but I’m glad that even if I am detached, I’m not too detached that things in my life run amok!

    Thought provoking post! And glad to have read it.

    1. Its nice to know that you are ahead of most of us on the road to achieving detachment. Not a very easy path to follow, but as you must have realised, it certainly has it benefits.

    1. Nice to meet a fellow traveler on the road to achieving detachment. Long and difficult road….

    1. I believe most of us are at the bottom of that steep hill on the road to detachment. We just have to keep striving, I guess.

  14. Ali bin Abi Thalib has said it so well!! Very reflective post and so well told Jose. It will take a lot of will to practice this. Thank you for sharing your learning and understandings!

  15. Beautiful Corinne. Vipassana does get us detached frm all things just by watching them, lovely to hear of your experiences and understanding od detachment. I tell myself every now n then that I’m born alone n will go alone and the rest is a waking dream but still v real and v heartfelt.love.

    1. Thanks for your interesting comments. I found the the line ‘….the rest is a waking dream’ intriguing.

  16. Absolutely…we should learn detachment from around us….our childhood, young age, our life has no attachment with us; they leave us at a particular time, and we people always live with the fear of losing them. ..thoughtful post!

    1. Yes, we always live in mortal fear of losing something or someone, instead of learning to live in the present moment and enjoying what we have.

    1. Yes, not owning stuff is way easier. But I believe it amounts to escapism. As Thalib said, ‘let nothing own you.’

  17. You have written a very profound post. I cannot even begin to tell you how much of it I already follow and attempt to perfect. For that I need another post myself then 😀 What I found the best thing is the caution you have added, detachment has many ways not always the one which means give up life as such..

    1. Richa, we are looking forward to a post sharing your journey. I am sure that it would be very edifying and thought provoking.

  18. I normally have quite a detached take on life. But when it comes to my laptop … don’t even think about it! 😉
    Thank you, Jose for writing such a thought provoking post. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comments. Yes, we dc get attached to some things and this is the source of our ‘suffering’.

    1. Well, it seems so easy to understand the concept; putting it into practice is so, so difficult. Believe me.

  19. Jose after reading the first few lines of your post, my vipassana memories at igatpuri rekindled. and later I was happy to know that your post was also about the same. For me as well the first realisation of detachment dawned during vipassana. I remember how we used to focus on our breathing, each sensation and then contemplate that it will be over in the next moment..the acceptance of impermanence is the start of detachment…lovely post. Loved going back down the memory lane

    1. Actually, the concept of detachment was the corner stone of the Ignatian Spirituality retreat. However, it was only after I attended my first Vipassana course that I appreciated the rationale of being detached, viz. anicca.

    1. Thanks for visiting. Yes, I agree that mediation is very important for both our spiritual and mental health.

  20. It was such a profound one…..
    Though I have been inunciated still this attachment thing has not detached itself from me…
    Have a habit of holding on yo things..

    Long way to go…

  21. “Having found out, sir, that I cannot always get what I like, I have learnt always to like what I get. So I am quite sure we will have the kind of weather I like.” … Meaningful quote and very profound post! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comments. Learning to like what we have or receive is not as easy as it appears.

  22. I am familiar with (and studied) Vipassana Mediation and currently practice the Examen! I agree the former is at the individual level and the latter, God’s goody grace!

    This was great Jose. Corinne was right to get you back to writing! The image at the outset is a wonderful play on words too!

    1. If you are familiar with the techniques taught in Vipassana Meditation and practice Examen, I guess you are streets ahead of the rest of us. And thanks for the nice things you have said about the post.

    1. I believe that you cannot remain detached only from material things. After all, nothing is permanent; even family and other loved ones.

  23. This is a powerful post and I’ll be thinking about it for days. I believe I also misunderstood the concept of detachment. There’s been many times in my life when I have given away as many possessions as I could, fearing I was becoming too “attached.” Perhaps I need to rethink my approach. Not that I’ll ever be materialistic–it’s just not who I am–but I don’t have to give away everything I own, either. I wish I knew how to be precisely who God wants me to be. I wish the guidelines were more specific.

    1. The last line of your comment has me smiling. Yes, I do wish we had some tailor made instruction manual to assist us in navigating our lives. Unfortunately, there is no such manual and we have to use a trial and error method. I believe Thalib says it all.

  24. Nice to hear from Jose again. Your post was great to get me thinking. Detachment and acceptance can be a good way to handle that which we can’t control. I agree though that too much detachment and you are not really participating in your life fully and are more like an unemotional spectator watching life pass by. It’s a fine balance to realize what’s important to care about and what isn’t.

    CatGraham

    1. Yes, one has to strike a fine balance in attempting to discern what is important and what isn’t. Actually, striking this balance is as difficult as not succumbing to cravings.