In the modern world of spirituality and conscious relationships, detachment is considered to be one of the fundamental pillars of conscious living and loving.
The concept of detachment comes from Hindu and Buddhist spirituality. Detachment, or non-attachment, is the result of repeated spiritual perceptions that cause us to be strongly rooted in our sense of Self. This higher Self remains unaffected by the fluctuations of daily life.
It is that witnessing part in ourselves that always feels at peace and simply observes what comes and goes. It is that part that knows that “time heals all wounds.” In reality though, on top of this higher Self, we all have developed a personality that is shaped by our past experiences. This personality carries hopes, dreams, and emotional pain. These aspects of our personality, when not made peace with, keep us identified with our personality and therefore weaken our roots in the Self.
Unfortunately, many spiritual practitioners subscribe to the idealistic worldview that is presented in spiritual lore and artificially apply it because it somehow “makes sense.” While non-attachment is a beautiful and elevated quality that can bring a lot of peace and love into your life, its misapplication can be dangerous for your well-being and of those around you.
Non-attachment is a spontaneous quality of someone who has ceased to identify with the personality parts of himself. When non-attachment does not come naturally or when it is something we are striving for or a technique we are applying, it can result in emotional suppression.
Let me illustrate this with an example from one of my open-relationships. The partner I loved had laid his eyes on another woman and decided that he wanted to date her. While I kept telling myself that I love him and therefore I was happy he was having a great time, my heart suffered. I felt as if he didn’t love me enough by putting me through such hardship. Intellectually, I believed in unconditional love but emotionally I wasn’t ready for it.
Non-attachment is not about not caring but rather requires a deep and intimate experience of life. Unfortunately, my partner was the type who tried to apply “spiritual concepts” to control me. Instead of acknowledging my pain and asking how he could help me, he simply gave me a lecture on non-attachment, on the very things I already knew.
I felt as if I was failing because I was unable to be detached. I suffered because I felt as if my partner was punishing me for feeling hurt. This self-judgment is how we create a vicious cycle of emotional suppression. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, people who tend to suppress their emotions are usually unaware of it and are often those with tender hearts who genuinely love unconditionally, but who suffer as a result.
Emotional suppression is one of the main causes for disease. In the long run, suppressing our emotions leads to a suppression of the immune system. It is one of the factors thought to play an important role in a variety of diseases and syndromes such as anxiety, depression, cancer, fibromyalgia, auto-immune diseases and heart problems.
Spiritual practice requires a high level of awareness and radical honesty with ourselves. If non-attachment is not our natural response, we have to make sure we recognize it. Our ego wants us to believe we already are a fully evolved person. Rather than “practicing detachment” in such occasions, we can practicing mindfulness instead.
Mindfulness is the non-judgmental observation of sensations, feelings, and thoughts as they happen in the here and now. If we feel pain, we recognize and acknowledge it without attaching any meaning to it or creating a story out of it.
Mindfulness, rather than imposing non-attachment, requires us to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge the truth of our emotions and thoughts, without suppressing them. As a result, we have to make peace with ourselves and brutally accept where we’re at including what our wounds and challenges are.
The desire to be detached, preach detachment, and wish it for others is an idealistic drive that belongs to the realm of the ego. It is often a form of escapism resulting from the personality that suffers from the lack of acceptance of the present moment. Acknowledging our pain, and practicing equanimity towards it, involves a surrendering of the ego that wants to be and feel a certain way. This doesn’t mean we should give up on the idea of non-attachment. On the contrary, it’s an invitation to bring more awareness and honesty into the practice.
As conscious people, we need to befriend our own ego if we desire to bring consciousness into our relationships. We need to recognize its good and dark parts, and simply witness the different aspects of the ego as just another aspect of yourself. By establishing ourselves in that part of us that is able to see the play of reality, we witness the reactions of our personality and its wishes and dreams. We need to observe with radical honesty and transparency the challenges our personality needs to experience. Knowing our deepest desire, most heartfelt pain, and deepest longing can reveal to us the purpose of our life. Next time you experience pain, rather than running away from it, let it guide you to discover your deepest truths and the meaning of your life.
Rather than suppressing our emotions, we need to find harmonious ways of expressing them to our partners. As partners, we need to provide the support to our loved ones so they feel safe to express their true feelings and emotions without feeling judged.
Conscious loving takes hard work, and the danger of escaping into spiritual ideals and dreams when things get rough lies just around the corner. Conscious relationships are those in which we explore and work through our vulnerabilities and heal our deepest wounds with a partner who is committed to doing the same inner work. Relationships can be a great tool for transformation and personal development when they are done consciously, with mutual respect and love, and a deep caring for one another. The person who develops the emotional maturity necessary to support another human being will discover the gift of having been helped in return through the very same process.