Cultivating the Quality of Detachment
Newsletter #3
From Diana's Desk

About Diana

Look at your Life

        Look at the Wheel of Life and you see that in addition to the eight spokes representing the components of life, there are also eight qualities that emerge as you attend to balancing your life. They are the rewards of practicing balance and living according to your values. The qualities are quality, fellowship, nurturance, health, strength, stamina, detachment and spirituality. My focus in this issue is detachment. Alan Watts (Become What You Are) quotes Chuang-Tzu

"The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror;
it grasps nothing, it refuses nothing, it receives, but does not keep"

        Watts continues to describe detachment as "having no regrets for the past, no fears for the future… to neither prolong the stay of things pleasant, nor hasten the departure of things unpleasant" Another aspect of detachment is suspending judgements of bad or good about a situation or person and just seeing them as they are. There is an observer quality about having a sense of detachment. Arnold Mindell (Sitting in the Fire) suggests when in a group, be a weatherman. Comment upon what you observe, what is going on, what is in the atmosphere, for example " when that question was asked everyone fell quiet".

        Probably the most practical way to realize you are gaining the quality of detachment in your life is when something or someone who usually pushed your buttons, causing you to react automatically no longer provokes that response in you. Does this mean giving up being passionate? Of course not, passions, excitement and strong beliefs are the greatest motivations for living. But if you can keep the passion without taking an emotional nosedive each time there is a minor disappointment, change in plans or less than desirable outcome, you are generating the quality of detachment.

        So how do you "do" detachment? Doing detachment is certainly an oxymoron. Detachment just emerges, often subtly and over time, as you attend to other aspects of your life. While a centering practice is key to developing detachment, other areas of life shown on the Wheel have great influence. I want to discuss those before giving some examples of centering practice.

        First, and essential to my concept of the Wheel of Life, are your values. This entails discovering or uncovering what your true values for living are, then living in congruence with those values. When there is a discrepancy between what you believe to be "right-full" living and the manner in which you do live day to day, you're living in conflict, consciously or unconsciously. This is a form of cognitive dissonance. It is energy draining and keeps you stressed and reactive. There is a clarity and calmness whenever you act according to your beliefs because neither excuses or defenses are needed.

        One way we can slip into cognitive dissonance is when we hold onto identities that are no longer relevant to our lives. For instance, a common case is the man who in younger years did his own car repair, house painting and remodeling. As time passes, there is less time to do these things, and perhaps, any real inclination. While there is usually more money available, he is reluctant to give up these activities. His identity is fixed as a "do it yourselfer" but that is not the current reality. So the projects remain undone but are there every day reminding him and the family. Or, if they are completed, it is often at the expense of other fulfilling activities. Just for gender balance, here is another example. A woman may tend to hold onto the identity of someone who sews most of her clothes long after she discontinues the practice. Many of us still get that old feeling when we walk into a fabric store. And some of us still have a stock pile of fabrics.

        Life balance is not about doing it all, but doing what is congruent with who you presently are. Jettison the rest, and what is left is not only doable, but also enjoyable with energy and zest. Last edition I wrote about the three houses of self-care, body, shelter and finances. As you put your houses in order, detachment can start to replace the clutter, actual and psychological.

        We are finally realizing how connected the mind and body are. The care of your body is one of the most important aspects for moving yourself towards detachment. What you eat has a direct and profound effect on your emotional reactions. Not eating breakfast, or eating just coffee and sweets will cause your blood sugar to careen up and then down drastically. The symptoms of low blood sugar are very similar to feelings of anxiety and stress. When our body reacts to these chemical changes, it tricks the mind into believing we are less able to cope with a situation. This sets up a negative cycle, leading to more anxiety. Today there are excellent sources for nutrition education. I suggest The Real Age Diet by Dr Michael Roizen.

        The other essential body-care to help develop the sense of detachment is exercise. Exercise not only tones the body, but calms and energizes as well. Yoga is very effective for developing detachment. When I do my practice, it is almost impossible to think of other things. Yoga practice is a meditation. You'll sleep better with regular exercise. Adequate sleep is an important pillar of your body house. It's hard to feel calm and detached when you are exhausted and unfocused.

        Centering practices involve some form of regular time set aside to be self- reflective, and to practice calmness and detachment. Use a form of prayer or meditation that is in keeping with your beliefs and values. Reading words of inspiration elevates your sense of well being while bringing you out of yourself as you put your own troubles into perspective. Journal writing is an effective method to tap into thoughts and help you sort through issues that are of concern to you. Even having your morning cup of coffee or tea in a quiet spot with some self-reflection is a form of centering.

        During your day, there are ways to work toward detachment. Thich Nhat Hanh (Peace in Every Step) suggests using those very situations that annoy you such as red lights, ringing phones etc. as signals to practice. He tells us to " breath in, smile out". In the Course in Miracles, a most helpful phrase when a potentially upsetting event occurs is "there is another way to look at this" An affirmation by Paramahansa Yogananda (Metaphysical Meditations) describes daily living with a sense of detachment.

I will be calmly active, actively calm. I will not become lazy and mentally ossified. Nor will I be overactive, able to earn money but unable to enjoy life. I will meditate regularly to maintain true balance.

        I call this the eagle and ant approach. You need the view of the eagle to see the larger picture of your life and the world. This helps you to keep an objective perspective. At the same time, when involved in a particular activity, work like an ant, totally focused and lost in the task. Total absorption in the present can expand time to complete the project because your energy and brain are available and not scattered to the past, future or other concerns. This double registration of observer/doer leads to experiencing the wonderful freedom of detachment.

        In conclusion, be who you really are, take self-care, and practice centering. One day you will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Feel free to contact me for self-assessments about your life balance and self-care.

Warm regards




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