‘Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you’
ALI ABI TALIB.
How would you feel if everything you had was taken from you? Your house, car, job, friends, family. Everything! How about losing your smartphone or favorite watch? Would you feel anger, pain, sad? I would probably feel a cocktail of these emotions. The reason that many of us experience negative emotions in these circumstances is that our mind is programmed to attach to things and people. As a result, we let them control our state of mind. This is pretty normal unless you‘re a monk. Monks live differently. They detach from almost everything and don’t look for outer stimulus or material objects to fill their emptiness. They don’t need anything or anyone else.
The attachment disease
The attachment disease starts from the moment we become self-aware. At a certain moment, a child starts believing ’this is ‘mine’. My toy, my candy, my friend. ’That is my toy don’t touch it’ he will tell his sibling. Later in life the ‘toy’ becomes ‘my bike’, my bike becomes ‘my car, house, partner, etc.’ and before you know it, it becomes all about me. Attachment is something very subtle and derives from a feeling of incompleteness. And guess what? Incompleteness goes hand-in-hand with a deep feeling of unhappiness.
Everyone craves for happiness because we all want to live ‘the good life’. However, how we look at happiness makes all the difference. Many of us believe that the path to happiness is something we need to find outside of ourselves. We live from event to event (weekend to weekend, holiday to holiday and from car to better car). Although we’ll feel short-term pleasures, the attachment brings some form of suffering. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
The attachment in relationships causes jealousy, anger, manipulation.
We NEED the relationship because we are ATTACHED to the validation we NEED from the other person.
The job gives stress and anger.
We NEED the job because we are ATTACHED to the status it gives although we are almost entering a burn-out.
Stuff cause stress, selfishness, and greediness.
We NEED to have a better car then our friend and the newest SMARTPHONE because WE are ATTACHED to the self-image we need to hold up.
Of course, we can also experience good things from relationships, cars and our jobs if we don’t get ATTACHED. The problem is that we let the outer world control our inner world.
So what can we learn from monks about detachment?
1) Be comfortable with yourself
Learn to be happy with yourself. How do you do that? Start by being with yourself for a day. No phone, no social media, NO distractions at all! This is a good starting point find out what’s happening inside of you. When we start feeling something negative we tend to look some form of distraction (food, alcohol, our phone, etc.) so that we don’t need to feel the discomfort. Start confronting yourself and become uncomfortable. Dig deep and find out what’s going on inside of you. Learn the real you! But don’t walk away when it get’s tough. It will help you grow!
2) Shift from needing to giving.
NEEDING something is one of the main reasons we experience negative emotions in our life. Start shifting from needing to giving. See the circumstance and events in your life as opportunities where you can give value. The best thing is that in the end, you will GET more because you GIVE more! Monks do their inner work first so that they can give back more to the outer world.
So, what is a better way of looking at the above examples?
When entering a relationship we CHOOSE to be in it. Not because we NEED to, but because we WANT to be in the relationship. The relationship is built on trust and growth.
We CHOOSE a job that fits our passion, personality, and talents by using our self-awareness. The job will challenge us healthy way.
We enjoy our cars, phones, and houses but realize that the ’stuff’ will not make us happy. We don’t compare our stuff with others.
So should you become a monk now? No way! Unless you really want to.
However, I think there is something extremely meaningful in detaching and the realization that you don’t NEED anything outside of yourself.