Sadly, non-attachment or detachment as proposed in Buddhism is radically misunderstood by many. Non-attachment actually brings about the most profound sense of care, compassion, and freedom you could ever imagine.
But, I understand why the word “detachment” might send chills up your spine. So let’s set the picture straight.
What Does Non-Attachment Really Mean?
Non-attachment doesn’t mean being cold as a stone. Emotions don’t cease to exist as you learn to let go. You just relate to them differently because you understand their ephemeral nature. And that, thank goodness, means there’s a lot less to get riled up about.
For example, even great spiritual teachers:
They may have moments when impatience or frustration arises, too. They’re ultra human, and not indifferent in the least.
But, they don’t entangle themselves in these emotional states by firing up aversion for the “negative” or wanting to extend the “positive.” They allow emotions to rise and dissolve. They don’t feed emotions, fuel drama, or express distress by engaging in knock-on negative behaviors. They have perspective.
This takes considerable practice, but virtually everyone has the power to tame their mind through cultivating mindfulness and awareness.
The Beauty of Non-Attachment
When you understand the true meaning of non-attachment:
- Expectations no longer rule your life.
- Emotions arise, but you have space. You have perspective. Emotions don’t catch and torment you every time.
- You relate to the world as it is rather than to your concepts about it, which never bring lasting happiness.
- You have a clarity of mind so you’re able to see through to the truth of things.
- You’re not bothered by much, but that doesn’t mean you tolerate harmful behavior.
- The problems of this world evoke compassion rather than anger.
- You don’t chase after happiness. You just enjoy it when it’s present, and release it when it dissolves.
- You’re able to allow life to unfold without needing to control everything.
- You don’t stop loving. You love even more.
- Your heart only grows bigger and bigger and bigger, when you see all the unnecessary suffering in this world.
- You feel naturally compelled to help, but you’re not attached to the outcome.
- The sense of spaciousness and freedom you feel bring a genuine contentment that can never be found in temporary experiences.
You are free because you’re in charge of your mind and emotions instead of them bossing you around. And, with this freedom, you can taste the distinct flavor of every experience with no need to squeeze it tightly to your chest.
P. S. This post was inspired by a young man’s passionate rally against non-attachment and impermanence, which you’ll find here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb-OYmHVchQ#t=155 You might also appreciate Sigmund Freud’s reflections On Transience, mentioned in the video.