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Detachment

Today I am happy to feature my husband, José,  sharing his understanding of detachment. José is a reluctant writer – who has been co-erced by me to get back to writing!  He writes at our shared blog From 7Eight on some of his other loves – food, travel and books!

NoAttachments

About twenty years ago, I signed up for a retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. And in one of my first meetings with my spiritual director, Fr. Peter Ribes, S.J., he spoke of praying for the grace of detachment. Or as he succinctly put it, ‘not having any attachment.’

My initial reaction was to wonder whether I had made a mistake in signing up for this retreat. Because in my mind, not having an attachment, meant giving up or renouncing. Like a Buddhist monk, who has given up his worldly possessions and lives on ‘dana‘ or charity of others.

But Fr. Ribes  explained the concept to me in the context of Ignatian Spirituality; surrendering to God and trusting God enough that no matter what happens, “God’s grace will be enough for me.”

But what was clear from his explanation was that ‘having worldly possessions was acceptable; what was not acceptable was the craving or attachment for these possessions.’  Or in the words of Ali bin Abi Thalib

Detachment-is-not-that

Years later, I got interested in Vipassana meditation. And having joined up for a ten day course at Dhamma Giri at Igatpuri, I realised that the central purpose of the mediation was to overcome suffering by eradicating craving and aversion, i.e. the obverse of craving.

Again detachment or no attachment. Only at Dhamma Giri, the rationale behind detachment is the fact that ‘nothing is permanent’ or annica. As such, any craving or aversion will invite suffering as the object of the craving or aversion is impermanent.

Realising that nothing is permanent, the mediators were taught to observe their breathing and be aware of the sensations on the body, as techniques to eradicate craving and aversion. But the sum and substance was the same grace of detachment that I was first introduced to by Fr. Ribes.

I believe that I have been singularly blessed to have been exposed to both Ignation Spirituality as also Vipassana meditation. Whilst the former taught me that detachment is a grace based on acceptance of God’s Grace, the latter helped me appreciate detachment at the individual level.

At the end of the day, what I have come to realise is that being detached helps one navigate the shoals and uncertainties of daily living. By learning to accept that nothing is permanent and not everything can be controlled, I am accepting the world as it is and not as I wish it to be.

I think that this dialogue from Volume 2 of The Prayer of the Frog by Anthony de Mello,  S.J. best illustrates my understanding of the concept of detachment.

Traveller: “What kind of weather are we going to have today?”

Shepherd: “The kind of weather I like.”

“How do you know it will be the kind of weather you like?”

“Having found out, sir, that I cannot always get what I like, I have learnt always to like what I get. So I am quite sure we will have the kind of weather I like.”

I would end this post on a note of caution. I have often seen people become so detached that their behaviour can well be labeled as ‘criminal’ detachment. It manifests itself in various ways. Like someone who let the interior designer run amok in his new apartment, because having given the assignment he chose to remain aloof thinking he was detached. Or becoming fatalistic and accepting injustice in the name of detachment.

This post is written for the letter ‘D’ for the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014. José and I are doing the Challenge on our blog,on From 7Eight

88 Comments

  1. Inderpreet Kaur Uppal Inderpreet Kaur Uppal April 6, 2014

    Very well written article and I like the note you end it on. Too much detachment.
    I had a similar experience while learning Reiki.
    Will share it on my blog sometime. Thanks for the Gyan!!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 7, 2014

      Too much detachment is more dangerous than having attachments, which is why I label such behavior as ‘criminal.’ Claiming to be detached is an easy way of escaping one’s responsibilities. Looking forward to your post on your experience whilst learning Reiki.

  2. simple girl simple girl April 6, 2014

    wow!!!.. a thought provoking post.. and on my part I do have a long way to go ….

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 6, 2014

      I believe most of us have a long way to go. Being detached is not easy.

  3. Stephanie Stephanie April 5, 2014

    I love the quote about things not owning you. It’s so true. I have learned to live with much less in order to stay home with my son. The time together is worth so much more than the things we could buy. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Its so easy to pontificate about being detached, yet so difficult to practice. It’s great to read that you are actually walking the path and enjoying it.

  4. Shilpa Garg Shilpa Garg April 5, 2014

    This is so thought provoking! Just a day before yesterday, a friend was suggesting that we go for a 10 day Vipassana meditation course! Your post has given a lot of insights and has convinced me to explore and experience this too!
    “I cannot always get what I like, I have learnt always to like what I get. So I am quite sure we will have the kind of weather I like”…If one can follow this in life, things would so much easier and happier in our life! Thanks for sharing this wonderful post, Jose!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes, Shilpa, if only we learn to like what we have or a given, we would be happy. But then, in today’s aspirational world, it is not easy to adhere to this way of living. And I do hope you follow through and attend the ten day course. Jaipur does have a great centre.

  5. Rajlakshmi Rajlakshmi April 5, 2014

    the last few lines that Shepard says strikes home. To go on with life, it’s necessary to know when to draw the line. Ambition is good but not that price of peace. 🙂 Loved the insightful post.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      I fully endorse your sentiment that ‘ambition is good but not at the price of peace.’ Today in a ‘greed is good’ world, it is very difficult to live a life without attachment.

  6. Kajal Kajal April 5, 2014

    I love this post…it does so much to teach me some. I am someone who needs to learn to detach myself. Thank, Jose!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Thanks for your comment. I do hope that in time, you will learn to be detached. Not the easiest of things, but worth the effort, I guess.

  7. Loni Townsend Loni Townsend April 5, 2014

    A world apart, but some themes transcend cultures and lifestyle barriers. Thank you for this post.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes, worlds apart but then there are many roads to the same goal, viz. peace of mind.

  8. Cat Cat April 5, 2014

    Nice to hear from Jose again. Your post was great to get me thinking. Detachment and acceptance can be a good way to handle that which we can’t control. I agree though that too much detachment and you are not really participating in your life fully and are more like an unemotional spectator watching life pass by. It’s a fine balance to realize what’s important to care about and what isn’t.

    CatGraham

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes, one has to strike a fine balance in attempting to discern what is important and what isn’t. Actually, striking this balance is as difficult as not succumbing to cravings.

  9. Darla Sue Dollman Darla Sue Dollman April 5, 2014

    This is a powerful post and I’ll be thinking about it for days. I believe I also misunderstood the concept of detachment. There’s been many times in my life when I have given away as many possessions as I could, fearing I was becoming too “attached.” Perhaps I need to rethink my approach. Not that I’ll ever be materialistic–it’s just not who I am–but I don’t have to give away everything I own, either. I wish I knew how to be precisely who God wants me to be. I wish the guidelines were more specific.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      The last line of your comment has me smiling. Yes, I do wish we had some tailor made instruction manual to assist us in navigating our lives. Unfortunately, there is no such manual and we have to use a trial and error method. I believe Thalib says it all.

  10. Ananya Kiran Ananya Kiran April 5, 2014

    Detachment is very subjective feeling, Detachment towards materialistic things is good and feeling detached to your family and loved one’s is worst.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      I believe that you cannot remain detached only from material things. After all, nothing is permanent; even family and other loved ones.

  11. Cristina Cristina April 4, 2014

    I am familiar with (and studied) Vipassana Mediation and currently practice the Examen! I agree the former is at the individual level and the latter, God’s goody grace!

    This was great Jose. Corinne was right to get you back to writing! The image at the outset is a wonderful play on words too!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      If you are familiar with the techniques taught in Vipassana Meditation and practice Examen, I guess you are streets ahead of the rest of us. And thanks for the nice things you have said about the post.

  12. Sheethalsusan Sheethalsusan April 4, 2014

    “Having found out, sir, that I cannot always get what I like, I have learnt always to like what I get. So I am quite sure we will have the kind of weather I like.” … Meaningful quote and very profound post! 🙂

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Thanks for your comments. Learning to like what we have or receive is not as easy as it appears.

  13. Sitara Nair Sitara Nair April 4, 2014

    It was such a profound one…..
    Though I have been inunciated still this attachment thing has not detached itself from me…
    Have a habit of holding on yo things..

    Long way to go…

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Thanks for visiting. Yes, it is indeed difficult not to be attached.

  14. monti7 monti7 April 4, 2014

    This is certainly a thought-provoking post. It reminds me of the importance of meditation. Thank you.<a href

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Thanks for visiting. Yes, I agree that mediation is very important for both our spiritual and mental health.

  15. Shiva Shiva April 4, 2014

    Jose after reading the first few lines of your post, my vipassana memories at igatpuri rekindled. and later I was happy to know that your post was also about the same. For me as well the first realisation of detachment dawned during vipassana. I remember how we used to focus on our breathing, each sensation and then contemplate that it will be over in the next moment..the acceptance of impermanence is the start of detachment…lovely post. Loved going back down the memory lane

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Actually, the concept of detachment was the corner stone of the Ignatian Spirituality retreat. However, it was only after I attended my first Vipassana course that I appreciated the rationale of being detached, viz. anicca.

  16. Found In Folsom Found In Folsom April 4, 2014

    A much needed calm and peaceful post on a Friday morning. Thank you Jose for that. It is easy and hard at the same time to be detached.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Well, it seems so easy to understand the concept; putting it into practice is so, so difficult. Believe me.

  17. SD Neeve SD Neeve April 4, 2014

    I normally have quite a detached take on life. But when it comes to my laptop … don’t even think about it! 😉
    Thank you, Jose for writing such a thought provoking post. 🙂

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, we dc get attached to some things and this is the source of our ‘suffering’.

  18. Richa Singh Richa Singh April 4, 2014

    You have written a very profound post. I cannot even begin to tell you how much of it I already follow and attempt to perfect. For that I need another post myself then 😀 What I found the best thing is the caution you have added, detachment has many ways not always the one which means give up life as such..

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Richa, we are looking forward to a post sharing your journey. I am sure that it would be very edifying and thought provoking.

  19. Obsessivemom Obsessivemom April 4, 2014

    Complete detachment is easier than the kind you talk of.. to own things but to not let them own you!! Very tough. Not owning stuff at all is way easier.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes, not owning stuff is way easier. But I believe it amounts to escapism. As Thalib said, ‘let nothing own you.’

  20. Sheela Sheela April 4, 2014

    Absolutely…we should learn detachment from around us….our childhood, young age, our life has no attachment with us; they leave us at a particular time, and we people always live with the fear of losing them. ..thoughtful post!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes, we always live in mortal fear of losing something or someone, instead of learning to live in the present moment and enjoying what we have.

  21. Sunila Sunila April 4, 2014

    Beautiful Corinne. Vipassana does get us detached frm all things just by watching them, lovely to hear of your experiences and understanding od detachment. I tell myself every now n then that I’m born alone n will go alone and the rest is a waking dream but still v real and v heartfelt.love.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Thanks for your interesting comments. I found the the line ‘….the rest is a waking dream’ intriguing.

  22. Aditi Aditi April 4, 2014

    Ali bin Abi Thalib has said it so well!! Very reflective post and so well told Jose. It will take a lot of will to practice this. Thank you for sharing your learning and understandings!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes, Ali Bin Abi Thalib put it very succinctly. And yes, putting in into practice is not easy.

  23. Monica Deshpande Monica Deshpande April 4, 2014

    Jose and Corinne, thanks for the wonderful post. You’ve explained it so beautifully. Alas, I have a long way to go..

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      I believe most of us are at the bottom of that steep hill on the road to detachment. We just have to keep striving, I guess.

  24. Suzy Suzy April 4, 2014

    nothing is permanent and not everything can be controlled – my thoughts exactly. A very thought provoking post.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Nice to meet a fellow traveler on the road to achieving detachment. Long and difficult road….

  25. Leo Leo April 4, 2014

    I’m not very possessive of things in general, and I do believe the reverse is true too. For the most part, nothing owns me. It is hard at times not to let that happen, but I’m glad that even if I am detached, I’m not too detached that things in my life run amok!

    Thought provoking post! And glad to have read it.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Its nice to know that you are ahead of most of us on the road to achieving detachment. Not a very easy path to follow, but as you must have realised, it certainly has it benefits.

  26. Tasha Tasha April 4, 2014

    Very interesting ideas, especially with the warnings at the end. Most thought provoking.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes, the ‘statutory warning’ is very important. Otherwise, we will blame detachment for the woes and miseries in our lives.

  27. Hemant Hemant April 4, 2014

    I loved this post…it gave me a reminder of lines I read few days ago…there are two ways to live our life – a) We keep trying to achieve our aspirations and b) we be content with whatever we have….and yeah I loved last lines of your post…

    I too am participating in A to Z challenge and tagged your post in mine today..

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Thanks, Hemant, for visiting and tagging the post. Yes, life would be so much simpler if we could be content with whatever we have. But I guess none of us are free of craving; otherwise, we would attain nirvana.

  28. S(t)ri S(t)ri April 4, 2014

    Very profound post. I had to read it twice to get a clear understanding of the thoughts explained. I am glad to read such thoughtful posts through this challenge!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      I am glad that the post resonated with you. Hopefully, you find in useful.

  29. Damyanti Damyanti April 4, 2014

    That quote said it all…your hubby is indeed wise.

  30. Swathi Shenoy Swathi Shenoy April 4, 2014

    It surely will take years before I get used to this whole concept! Getting rid of cravings is really a hard task!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes indeed, getting rid of cravings is really a hard task. Mainly because, cravings or aversions are so insidious and difficult to distinguish from genuine needs.

  31. Beloo Mehra Beloo Mehra April 4, 2014

    This was a wonderful post to read about an important aspect of any sincere spiritual quest. Thanks Jose and thanks Corinne for having him guest write this post! The first picture has been a delight ever since I first saw it on the net somewhere. It speaks so nicely of something so deep! The last word of caution in this post is also very appropriate, and very important to remember.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes, it is so each to use detachment to escape the difficulties we face in life. Hence I thought that a word of caution was required.

  32. Shailajav Shailajav April 4, 2014

    There is a reason I can relate to this post. My own guru specifies a wonderful tenet: Do every task with complete commitment and zero attachment. This means that we must do the task for the pleasure that it offers, not for the outcome that may emerge at the end of it.

    Wonderful to see someone echo that sentiment through this post, Jose. I particularly liked the ‘Prayer of the Frog’ extract.

    Stay blessed 🙂

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      I guess there are many paths to the same well of wisdom. I believe that your Guru’s path is based on the Krishna’s instructions to Arjuna in the Bhagavat Gita.

  33. Meena Menon Meena Menon April 4, 2014

    Jose, that ancedote on the person who was deatchaed enuf to let the interior designer run amok was indeed funny!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      It may appear funny and anecdotal, but we have actually visited that apartment in question.

  34. Jayanta Tewari Jayanta Tewari April 4, 2014

    While I am exposed to these thoughts (from my schooling at Ramakrishna Mission Boarding Schools), really enjoyed reading it. I think I practice these to some extent and this was a good validation and reflection for myself. Thanks.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      I’m glad that you found the the post to be a good validation of your practice. It is indeed gratifying when someone who practices detachment, agrees with the thoughts conveyed in the post.

  35. Sulekha Sulekha April 4, 2014

    Detachment frees us but giving up in the name of detachment doesn’t. Losing loved ones makes you realize nothing in life is permanent and everybody leaves in the end. Renouncing attachments is preached in the Bhagavad Gita too. Great post, Corinne. Loving your A to Z posts 🙂

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Yes, Sulekha, the Bhagavad Gita too preaches about being fully involved in whatever we do, without a fixation about the outcome. Another approach to renouncing attachments.

  36. Ida Chiavaro Ida Chiavaro April 4, 2014

    Your husband has shared a thought provoking piece… I enjoyed his little warning at the end too. the weather quote reminds me of what the Danes say about the weather here. There is no such thing as bad weather only bad choice of clothing… I must admit I am fairly attached to my winter coats – but only when it’s freezing 🙂

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      I like the Danes attitude to the weather. I wish we can cultivate such an attitude towards other things too, whilst at the same time not using detachment to escape route.

  37. Vidya Sury Vidya Sury April 4, 2014

    I loved the post and the quotes, Jose! Detachment of the kind you described is the path to true happiness. Gosh, I have a way to go. Sentimental attachment to things as I am learning is not good for health. These days, I ask myself, will this matter to me three months from now? And my answer surprises me sometimes.

    Again, wonderful post. May I add a quote from Pooh:
    “What day is it?” asked Pooh.
    “It is Today” squeaked Piglet.
    “My favorite day!” said Pooh.

    Thank you!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      What’s that about taking the first step…. The fact that you realise that you have a long way to go, implies progress. I like the question about whether something will matter after three months. And that quote from from Pooh; all about living in the present moment.

  38. Debbie Debbie April 4, 2014

    Thought-provoking post! While I’m not a materialistic person, there are certain things of sentimental value that I am attached to. People who are constantly striving to obtain possessions are pretty shallow, in my opinion. It’s all superficial and in the grand scheme of life, what do they matter?

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      I cannot but agree with the last line of your comment. In a line, it sums up what detachment is all about.

  39. Bhavya Bhavya April 4, 2014

    Ever since I have heard about Vipassana, I have this deep desire to attend the course. Jose is lucky to have been to both Vipassana and Ignation Spirituality.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Vipassana has to be experienced to be understood. Reading about or discussing the techniques does lead to detachment.

  40. Sreeja Praveen Sreeja Praveen April 4, 2014

    Wow, the concept of detached attachment ! This post is very deep, and sets the train of thoughts in motion. It is very difficult to be detached, especially when the natural bond is very strong, but all wheels of spirituality speak of this detachment as a necessity for life. That we may own something, but that something may not own us !
    Thanks for this thoughtful piece, Jose !! and Thanks, Corinne, for sharing this with us all !!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Being detached is indeed a necessity for survival, on a day to day basis. The bottom line is that ‘nothing should own you’, as Ali Bin Abi Thalib succinctly put it.

  41. Proactive Indian Proactive Indian April 4, 2014

    Detachment is quite easy to spell, pronounce and write down, but not so easy to practise.

    Ali Bin Abi Thalib has defined it so well!

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      And a topic for intellectual debate and to preach about. But so very difficult to practice, in daily life.

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      At one level, is certainly is a ‘God’ thing. But at another level, being detached is essential for survival of the individual.

  42. nabanita nabanita April 4, 2014

    This is such a profound post… It got me thinking..But it’s so hard to be detached no? I find it really hard..at any point in time there are so many things that I want..

    • Jose Rodrigues Jose Rodrigues April 5, 2014

      Detachment is not about wanting something that you require; the important thing is being able to to without it, in case you cannot have it.

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