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