An American tourist went to Delhi, with the intention of visiting a famous sage. The tourist was surprised to see that the sage lived in a simple room full of books. The only pieces of furniture were a bed, a table and a bench.
-Where is your furniture? – Asked the tourist
And the wise man also asked: – And where is yours?
– Mine? – Answered surprised the tourist. But, if I’m only here passing!
– Me too … – Concluded the wise man.
This tale introduces perfectly one of the pillars of Buddhism, a philosophy from which Psychology took some inspiration recently: the detachment, which becomes one of the main ways to achieve spiritual peace, welfare and happiness. However, it is also one of the hardest commandments to follow.
Attachment is an expression of insecurity
The Law of Detachment indicates that we should give up our attachment to things, which doesn’t mean that we give up our goals; we don’t give up the intention but rather the interest in the outcome. At first glance, it may seem a trifle or an insubstantial change but in fact, is a huge transformation in the way we understand the world and our way of living.
In fact, at the same time we waive the interest for the outcome, we detach from the desire, which we often confuse with a necessity and that leads us to pursue goals that do not really satisfy us. At that time, we adopt a more relaxed attitude, and though it may seem counterintuitive, it is easier to get what we want. This is because the detachment is built upon trust in our potential, while attachment is based on fear of loss and insecurity.
When we feel insecure, we cling to things, relationships or people. But the curious thing is that the more we develop this attachment and more fear grows over our loss. That fear not only affects our emotional stability, but can also lead to create patterns of dysfunctional behavior.
For example, we can develop an unhealthy attachment to things, like people who can’t live without their Smartphone and even suffer auditory hallucinations caused by the habit of always being awaiting the next call or message. Of course, we can also fall into harmful relational patterns affecting the person we love and deeply damaging the relationship or even breaking it.
However, detachment preaches another way of relating to others, involves not depending on what we have or the person with whom we have established emotional ties. It is important to understand that detachment doesn’t mean not to love, but to be autonomous, free from fear of loss to start really enjoying what we have or the person we love. Detachment doesn’t mean to stop enjoying and experiencing pleasure but on the contrary, it means to start living fully, because our experiences are no longer overshadowed by the fear of loss.
Uncertainty as a path
The attachment is a product of a poor consciousness, focusing on symbols. In fact, for the Buddhism, housing, clothing, cars and objects in general, are transient symbols that come and go. Pursuing these symbols is equivalent to strive the treasure map, but does not imply enjoying the territory. So we end up feeling empty inside. In practice, we change our “ego” by the symbols of that “ego”.
Why do we pursue these symbols? Basically, because we have been led to believe that material possessions lies security. We think that owning a house and making money we will feel secure. In fact, some people think: “I’ll feel safe when I have X amount of money. Then I will be free financially and I can do what I like”. But the funny thing is that, very often, the more money people have the most unsafe they feel.
The problem is that identifying security with possessions is merely a sign of insecurity and, obviously, the tranquility that material things can provide is fleeting. Those seeking safety pursue it throughout their life without ever finding it.
This is because seeking security and certainty is merely an attachment to what we know, an attachment to the past. What we know is simply a prison built on past conditioning. It doesn’t imply evolution, and when there’s no changes simply appears chaos, stagnation and decay.
On the contrary, it is necessary to hold in uncertainty. This is a fertile ground for creativity and freedom as it involves penetrating the unknown, a wide range of possibilities where everything is new. Without uncertainty, life is just a repetition of memories, experiences that we have already lived. Therefore, we become victims of the past.
When we give up attachment to what we know we can delve into the unknown, embrace uncertainty and open ourselves to new experiences that feed our desire to live and make us happier people.
Problems become opportunities
The Law of Detachment doesn’t tell us that we shouldn’t have goals. When we embrace detachment we do not become wind-blown leaves. In fact, in Buddhism goals are important to mark the direction we take. However, what is interesting is that between point A and point B there is uncertainty, which means an almost infinite universe of possibilities. Thus, to achieve our goal, we can follow different paths and change direction when we want.
This way of understanding life brings us another advantage: not to force solutions to problems and stay alert to opportunities. When we practice the true detachment, we do not feel compelled to force solutions to problems, but we are patient and wait and, as we do it, we find opportunities.
In fact, according to Buddhism, each issue contains an opportunity that leads to a benefit. What happens is that with the mentality of attachment, we are scared and try to force the solution so that most of the time we only focus on the negative part of the problem and we miss the opportunity that this entails.
However, when we believe that every problem contains the seeds of opportunity, we open to a much wider range of possibilities. Thus, we will suffer much less in adversity and we’ll find the solution faster, and this will allow us to grow as people.
Remember: “All the things that you cling to, and without which you are convinced you can’t be happy, are simply the cause of your anguish. What makes you happy is not the situation around you, but the thoughts in your mind … “