The most common definition of detachment is aloofness or lack of concern for others, but in the area of spirituality, detachment is a positive quality. It is not a lack of concern, but a lack of prejudice or partiality. It is acceptance of the way the world actually is, rather than holding the whole world accountable for our self-centered expectations. Detachment is the freedom to get along without the approval of others.
Today’s quote says, “Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.” Some people seem to think that if they simply give up material things in life that they will somehow be more spiritual. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, if we live our lives so that nothing in our physical lives should control us.
For example, to a certain extent, we’re all controlled by money or the concept of money. If you think you are not controlled by it, then why do you go to work every day? Even people who enjoy their jobs and would do it for free if they could ultimately appreciate getting a paycheck. But most of us are not so controlled by money that we will do something illegal, immoral, or personally degrading to get it, and most of us are no so controlled by it that if we are on the losing end of an investment, we aren’t going to go out and kill ourselves.
There are other things in life that it’s a good idea to be detached from: food, alcoholic beverages, drugs, and sex. Sure, we need food to live, but it doesn’t have to be any particular food. As well, we should be detached enough from food that we don’t need to resort to eating too much of any one thing for comfort. Sex is another thing that the body craves at times, but it’s possible to live without it, if necessary. Not for the species as a whole, mind you, but individuals have gotten along without it. Most of us are detached from liquor, but those who cannot seem to function in life without it, and whose every act in every day consists of obtaining, having and using alcohol are totally controlled by it. Basically, when your actions are determined by your need for a thing, you are not detached from it.
It’s not just physical things that we must be detached from. We must be detached emotionally, as well, from approval, corroboration, praise, admiration, and popularity. We must also be detached mentally and emotionally from our fears, from our opinions, from our need to be right, and from our need to assert power over other human beings to get what we want.
When we are truly detached, we can do what we feel is right without worrying about what other people will say, since we no longer have the need for approval. We can express our opinion without caring whether others agree with us or not. We can accept and adapt to unexpected outcomes of situations without being stuck in any particular pattern. We can give assistance to others without the need for anyone to appreciate our help or express gratitude for it. We can give unconditional love to people without expectation of return. This is true spiritual freedom. 🙂