Like our physical shape which is nothing but an accumulation of what we’ve been eating for all these years, our mind is an accumulation of all sorts of informations and opinions broadcasted from every possible external sources.
In fact, we are broadly defined by the finer contours of our accumulated possessions, accumulated relationships, and accumulated thoughts.
Being an inseparable part of this consumeristic society, every one of us finds it difficult to resist the mentality of accumulation.
And you are definitely not an exception to this rule. After making your way through insurmountable layers of cut throat competition, your desire to surpass every possible yardstick of success can hardly be termed as misplaced ambition. Here, accumulation is nothing but a socially accepted metric to measure the parameters of success.
The accumulation per se is not an issue, however the real problem arises when you start identifying with these accumulations. There is no denying that these accumulations are yours, but definitely not you.
Eventually somewhere during the journey majority of us do realise that “ We are beyond these accumulations”.
However, we tend to struggle with this realization, but instead of acknowledging it we often chose to deny it or ignore it.
But then, when you have the luxury of money at your disposal you always wish to buy your way through every available shortcuts, including buying costliest retreats guaranteeing you that ever elusive peace of mind.
The most common advice dispensed liberally at these retreat is developing a sense of detachment in your life.
Even scriptures and discourses have always advocated the magic of detachment. Often recommended as a one stop remedy for most of your problems.
So, if you are looking for some long lasting peace of mind then there is no way to ignore this advice of detachment.
My struggle to rise above the obvious trappings of this accumulated mentality has been anything but a smooth ride. In my endeavor to bring more simplicity into this complex life I tried to weave in some sense of detachment within my daily activities. But somehow it didn’t prove to be the panacea it is often claimed to be.
Following the omnibus advice of “detachment” has its own set of challenges in this age. In fact, if followed blindly may result in psychotic behavior.
For example, if you are meeting your friend who gets hospitalised after an unfortunate accident and is visibly in great pain. There is no way you can share your words of wisdom —“pain in your body is nothing but the manifestation of your own mind —there is no point identifying with your body, because ultimately it’s going to stop working one day.”
Though every word of yours can stand the testimony of time, but it’s definitely not going to be appreciated by your friend who is busy pushing the boundaries of his pain threshold.
Since there isn’t a readymade answer to it, every one here is left on his own to find a customized answer for himself.
How do you practice this omnibus advice so that you could pursue a meaningful detachment in your daily life?
In our journey to find answers to existential queries we might stumble upon few pearls of wisdom, but never with a guarantee of finding a definite & convenient answers.
Because, whatever you may have successfully accumulated can be yours, but it can never be you.
Once you allow your intellect to get identified with anything, it will start distorting your perception, which in turn will shape the outcome of your efforts.
If you notice carefully — parents, family, community, caste, creed & religion, everyone is relentlessly campaigning to ensure that you are identified with them, so that you will never hesitate in serving their purpose. People get so identified because of these campaigns that everything gets distorted.
A strong set of likes & dislikes is another indication that your identification with something has become strong.
And in the long run these identifications end up causing so much trouble that there is a common recommendation of “detachment” for it.
To appreciate the relevance of detachment one need to first understand the periodical context (both societal as well as cultural) during which it was advocated first.
An examination of both Buddhist and stoic period will show the widespread prevalence of war, encroachment, slavery, and exploitation of every possible kind. The late Roman empire was increasingly cruel to the subject it ruled while disparity of wealth kept widening at an alarming rate during this period.
Life in general was extremely difficult for common citizens. There was no sense of control in their life. For general population life somehow became synonymous with suffering.
The only control in their life was how they chose to respond to their external conditions. Hence internal control was advocated. In fact, living with some sense of detachment helped the populace in surviving the onslaught of physical and emotional trauma of every kind.
Is it possible to say the same about the age in which we all are living?
Luxuries enjoyed by common people now (electricity, hot water, fridge, oven, television, internet, and cell phone) were not even available to royals of the past. Life has now become more safe and predictable.
Thanks to continuous advancement in medicine and technology most of the external manifestation of sufferings has more or less ceased to exist.
Life is not synonymous with suffering anymore — not even for population at the bottom half of the economic pyramid.
But does it mean the end of suffering?
Not exactly. Not even for the people at top of the pyramid.
External causes of sufferings has now been replaced by internal sufferings.
Causes of Internal sufferings includes:
1. Unfulfilled desires
2. Lack of meaning & purpose
3. The perceived lack of control in life
4. Inability to overcome the fear of unknown
1. Unfulfilled desires has now emerged as the primary cause of less fulfilled life.
At the very core, desires are simply thoughts that we are unable to drop.
It’s not the thought itself that matters, it’s what you do with it.
In fact, most of your thoughts are involuntary, they come uninvited.
Therefore it’s far more important to keep yourself reminding that you are not just your thoughts —— so it’s an attempt in futility to identify with them. In case if you start pursuing all your thoughts it has the inherent potential to color your emotional and mental well being.
Giving your thoughts the freedom to approach you, while you keep the strength to direct them will ensure the presence of equanimity in your life.
2. Despite having achieved modest amount of success in life, there seem to exist quite a widespread discontent among achievers — specially when it boils down to success in finding the meaning & purpose in your life.
But the fun part is — as long as you are preoccupied with searching the meaning of life you are losing each and every moment of it as you are on the path of self- inflicted prolonged unhappiness.
We just need to remember that at the core of our happiness lies the perfect alignment between who we are and what we choose to become.
The primary reason why there exists so much of deviation between the two is what HBS Professor Clayton Christensen call strategy sequencing — where the default attitude being “First I will work a job I hate and make a lot of money and then I’ll have a family & then I’ll do what I want & be happy.”
That’s the precise reason why number one regret of life is — not having the courage to live the life we want.
What a tragedy — we are so deeply conditioned we need the courage to find what we really want from life.
But at the same time, we tend to show lots of courage when it comes to following in the footsteps of someone celebrated as a success icon. In chasing security and certainty we end up living an impersonated and unhappy life.
3. A staggering proportion of human activity is motivated by the desire to feel safe and secure.
Try asking yourself if you have any problems right now. The answer, unless you’re currently in any physical pain, is very likely to be no.
Most problems involve thoughts about how something might turn out badly in the future, or thoughts about things that happened in the past.
In turning towards insecurity we may come to understand that security itself is a kind of illusion – and that we were mistaken, all along, about what it was we thought we were searching for.
The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you.
4. Faced with the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds, we invest ever more fiercely in our preferred vision of that future – not because it will help us achieve it, but because it helps rid us of feelings of uncertainty in the present.
Clinging to a preferred vision of future, specially a particular version of a happy life, while fighting to eliminate all possibility of an unhappy one, is the cause of root problem, not its solution.
Illogical fear of the unknown will always make sure that you are gravitated towards the allure of certainties and securities. Thereby missing all those possibilities lying beyond the periphery of security walls.
Now, the question is —
Is it possible to address these causes of internal sufferings by developing a sense of detachment?
But before trying to find any workable solution through the recommended path of detachment, we need to understand the basic problem with detachment — the moment you detach yourself, your ability to experience life is also compromised significantly. Because in the absence of involvement, there is no life.
Life cannot be experienced unless there is involvement – the deeper the involvement, the deeper the experience of life.
Nothing dramatic or spectacular needs to happen in your life to experience and cherish small moments of life.
If you are willing to get deeply involved with the simplest aspect of your life, every aspect of your life will become spectacular.
If that is so, then why is so much detachment being taught everywhere?
In fact, what I have seen is if you start detaching yourself from life, you tend to start avoiding life.
Whereas we all are here to experience life in all its possibilities, not to avoid life.
Is it possible to experience life unless you are involved?
If the answer is No, then why are we afraid of getting involved?
There is widespread perceived fear that if you get too much involved in life then you might get yourself entangled through attachment. But we often forget that this entanglement happens because of the discriminatory nature of our involvement.
Our involvement is coming from certain identifications. And we are often selective when it comes to identifying ourselves with external logos. It is this selective identification which is causing entanglement, not the involvement.
If your involvement is beyond your identifications, you will see that involvement brings absolute joy to life. In fact, when your involvement is indiscriminate and spontaneous it enhances life in a tremendous way.
If life is not enhanced within you, all the higher possibilities of life will also never happen to you.
In the process to become more enlightened people are preferring to become emotionless. But they often forget that if you practice how not to be involved with life, you will slowly become more lifeless.
You will become less of life as days go by – too much of mind and very little of life. As life recedes in you, you will see nothing fantastic can ever happen.
Only if life is happening exuberantly within, can it carry you to higher possibilities.
Therefore, to live non-attachedly is to live life without becoming hooked by mental narratives about how things ‘should’ be, or should never be, or should remain forever.
The perfectly non-attached person is simply calm, present, and non-judgmentally aware. I guess, that’s exactly what everyone is aspiring here.
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