By Gopika Nath November 2003 Detachment, as I have understood it, has meant giving credence to my feelings, needs, desires and perceptions, but controlling them and their expression or anxiety in fulfillment. Fear has many eyes and can see things underground. Fear is what holds all of us back in the things we do or we want to try and achieve. It creates anxiety and uncertainty, making us attached. We cling to what we know and have because this is better than the uncertainty of the unknown. Detachment is often cited as one of the most desirable attributes that a human being can cultivate. It is said a person is wise when ‘‘all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results’’ and ‘‘all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge’’. Like everything else in life, detachment is also learned through a process. If there is a conscious or subconscious desire to achieve this state of being, life puts us through experiences that will cultivate in us that state of detachment. These experiences disillusion us, hurt and anger us, but they also liberate us from the angst that being attached creates. Emotionally freed from guilt, pain, anger and more, our minds work with greater clarity, making us efficient. We cope better and are able to do so much more. The process of detachment has revealed different things to me and helped me understand what being detached really means. It isn’t about aloofness and being disinterested. It isn’t about a lack of sensitivity and feeling. And it isn’t about restraint arising from fear or hurt. Detachment, as I have understood it, has meant giving credence to my feelings, needs, desires and perceptions, but controlling them and their expression or anxiety in fulfilment, towards achieving what I have set out to. At times, this has meant maintaining a distance, while at others, it has meant bridging the divide by overcoming negative sentiments through an objective perspective. This has required a restraint in expressing the intensity of feeling and giving credence to more than just myself in any given situation. Above all is the sense that whatever happens is in one’s best interest. This is tough to believe when your ideas are threatened. It is hard to feel secure and trust the forces of the universe when they are in turn testing you. It is, however, in times like this that we can learn best because when you are lost, when you have nothing to hold on to, there really can be no fear. For what can you lose? All it takes is a little time contemplating what you feel afraid of. And the answer is usually about losing your self-image which is defined by the tokens of a material kind and/or people which determine our standing in social terms and therefore, what we should or should not do or be seen as doing or saying. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that the wise, who have risen above anxiety, do not find their security affected by the results of their actions, for they are really doing nothing (which means nothing producing ‘karma’). They are ‘‘free from expectation and all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the self’’. It has also been said that ‘‘in order to arrive at possessing everything, desire to possess nothing’’. In this state of nothing, we are truly in synchronicity with the spirit of our being. But this cannot be experienced in the cacophony of a worldly life on a sustained basis and therefore living a life balanced between the two, one can experience this state only momentarily. At other times it is rational thought, through analysis, that releases us from the binds of our attachment. Gradually, as we understand more and more, as ‘knowledge’ grows, so does our sense of detachment. In the process of understanding, one must first recognise the basis of the need. This is generally a physical or emotional criterion caused by circumstance. As we work to change this circumstance, we discover why something we thought suitable or desirable is no longer so, that living with or without it really makes little difference to the quality of our lives. This continues until one day the realisation dawns that nothing will ever really fulfil the need by external factors. The more this happens, the greater the sense of security in being alone with yourself, and the less your dependence on people and things. This does not mean you exclude them, but that you are not attached to anything in particular. The way to comprehend this lies in sensing the calm deep within and recognising that fulfilment is really about this and nothing else. If we have a sense of this then everything else is okay. It is when we do not have this enough, that fear takes over and the ego needs to be salved, or we crave someone or something in our lives. Security then, is the essence of detachment. Understanding this can only come from experiencing it. The irony of it is that we do experience this every single day, through our successes and disappointments, but we are just not aware enough of the essence of our beings. Knowing this and realising it, is, I imagine, what we all seek.
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