Embrace Nothing: Learning the Rules of Spiritual Detachment
How many times have you worked for a goal, only to find yourself banging your head against the wall? Why aren’t you getting the results you want when you did everything “right?” Does the universe hate you?
Sounds like you need to be introduced to the law of spiritual detachment. This principle is present in Taoism and Buddhism. It’s also one of the most infuriatingly counterintuitive spiritual rules—at least if you hate giving up control.
If you find yourself frequently bogged down in the little details, spiritual detachment may be the answer.
What is spiritual detachment?
Spiritual detachment doesn’t mean that you should ditch your job, sell your belongings and ignore the outside world. Instead, it asks you to stop focusing on results as well as the way those results are delivered. That’s anathema to Type A personalities everywhere. What do you mean, I can’t fixate on the results? Isn’t that the point of having a goal?
According to Deepak Chopra, failing to practice detachment can make it harder for you to reach your ultimate destination. Whether you’re studying for the Bar exam or can’t figure out why that new recipe turned into a major Pinterest fail, focusing on the small details along the way is detrimental.
Chopra states that “it has to do with how you respond and react to the world. If you are completely absorbed in the events that happen to you in the world, then you will be at the mercy of everything around. Every little challenge or upset would have the potential to trigger you, and create a negative spiral in your life.”
On the other hand, if you detach from your emotions and aim for higher awareness, you can see the bigger picture. Things don’t have to go perfectly every time for you to get what you want. If you’re so focused on how you think the process should go, you block yourself from finding new ways to accomplish the same goal.
There’s even a psychological component: “From a psychological perspective, neuroscientist and author of The Source Tara Swart, Ph.D., adds that ‘it takes time to build and strengthen neural pathways until you are ready for a new behavior, relationship, or job.’”
Separating yourself from your emotions and your goals is the key to eventually getting what you want.
How to practice spiritual detachment
The concept is simple. The actual practice is hard. Here are some ways to implement spiritual detachment in your own life.
- Love and relationships: It is a truth universally acknowledged that the moment you resign yourself to living on Cat Island, the perfect partner shows up. That’s because you’re not fixated on being the last in your friend group to get married, or even how much you hate being “the only single one.” Detaching from that “gotta have it right now” mindset means that you can dedicate more time and energy to being the best you possible—and you’re less likely to settle or overlook someone promising.
- Jobs and school: Detaching from a work or school outcome can feel particularly counterintuitive. When you’re trying to please your professors or find a way to pay the rent, you can get fixated. Spiritual detachment isn’t about giving up. Instead, detaching from the outcome is a way to give yourself permission to try alternative methods, ask for help or simply realize that this one thing is not going to make or break your life.
- Finances: Winning a lump sum of money or marrying a rich partner might seem like a good dream to have. Conversely, you might have goals like “saving a million dollars before I turn 30.” It’s actually counterproductive. If you’re so focused on one single outcome, you’ll overlook potentially better ways to get the job done.
It is easy to start practicing spiritual detachment. Continuing is the hard part. We’re human, so when our goals are taking longer to achieve than we think they should, we get discouraged. After all, you spent all that time bettering yourself! You were practically a spiritual guru! Where are the results?
When you find yourself spiraling, that’s a good sign that you need to take a break. Put down the Bar exam flashcards and go for a walk. Order takeout, and vow to conquer that Pinterest meal another day. If nothing else, refreshing your mind, body and spirit will make it easier to deal with the next inconvenience life throws your way. You’ll succeed eventually. That, in a nutshell, is the essence of spiritual detachment.