by Rev. Sue Annabrooke Jones
Previous versions of this article have appeared in The Isis Scrolls, and other in-print publications.
Copyrighted by the author.
"Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can
be attained only by someone who is detached." — Simone Weil
Many souls have come to this Earth plane to learn, among other things, how to work with detachment, or
nonattachment, as it is sometimes called. Because each of us must develop and eventually master the ability
to work with nonattachment, the need to practice more detachment appears frequently in the Life Purpose Readings I do.
The term detachment, which is most often associated with Eastern philosophy, is widely
misunderstood. Detachment does not mean disconnection or withdrawal from a person or a
situation, or from life.
The Christian tradition offers us a better term perhaps, that of divine indifference. But
this term too can be misleading, because nonattachment does not mean indifference to the needs or the
suffering of others. What then does detachment mean?
Detachment means involvement without emotional attachment to the outcome.
If we examine the nature of attachment and nonattachment, it becomes clear that the more entrenched
we become in our personal attachments, the more we suffer when they become threatened in some way or removed;
conversely, the fewer things we are attached to, the freer from suffering we can be. Liberation from suffering
not only results in greater happiness, it strengthens our ability to choose how we relate to situations in life.
But Isn't It Natural to Be Attached?
Some people believe that detachment is too lofty an ideal to attain. We humans, they argue, are social and emotional
creatures, so it's "only natural" that we form emotional attachments to outcomes. Why make the effort to attain the unattainable?
It just isn't realistic.
Attachment to people, places, situations, plans, ideas, ideals, beliefs, etc, is indeed a pervasive
societal norm. And this fact makes attachment seem quite natural. But it is also natural for the spiritually awakened person
to discover, at the appropriate time, the greater truths that lie beyond cultural norms. And one of those
truths is that all things are impermanant. Nothing in the phenomenal world belongs to us: all the things to which we attach ourselves
are merely "on loan from the cosmic lending library."
As for what is and isn't natural: For each awakening soul, the moment inevitably comes when a profound new understanding
arises from within: that detachment frees the mind to cruise, even soar, at much higher altitudes. With this new realization comes
another: that not striving to transcend attachment is no longer an option. It doesn't seem natural.
The ensuing process of learning to live one's life in a detached way doesn't always go smoothly. Attempting to apply
detachment consistently and correctly to all facets of life can become a real struggle, one that requires discernment,
perseverance, and much more. Fortunately, there are some techniques we can use to make the process easier and more effective.
Strategies for Cultivating Detachment
What follows are some strategies for cultivating detachment that have been useful to me. Perhaps
you will find them to be helpful as well.
1. How does one learn to work with detachment? The answer to this question is the same as the
punchline to the old joke, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!" Begin by practicing detachment with the
small things in your life, then gradually apply the same mindset to larger issues.
2. Adopt the premise that working with detachment is realistic and possible. The ability to work with divine indifference
might look like an inborn personality trait, but it is actually a mental skill, one that can be learned, practiced, and
Try this exercise. Think back over the last decade of your life and make a list of all the people, places, plans, ideas and
outcomes you thought you absolutely couldn't live without. How many of these did you eventually learn to let go of, or simply outgrow your
need for? What this exercise will likely reveal is that you are already engaged in the process of learning
nonattachment. The difference is, now you're choosing to work with it consciously.
3. Be patient with yourself. When you make a conscious choice to practice nonattachment, you become aware of the subtle
currents of energy that feed into your learning process. It takes time to sort through and fine tune all the layers of perception involved.
4. Learn to keep a constant vigil over your thoughts and to redirect and focus them whenever they stray into old, outmoded territories.
5. Use your imagination to invent ways to approach life in a less detached way. The imagination is one of the most powerful yet
under-utilized faculties of the human mind.
6. Realize that you are not alone, there are people all over the world who strive every day to transcend their attachments:
Christians who practice divine indifference: Jews who seek to please God, Buddhists who tread "the Way," Hindus who practice dispassion,
and those who serve humanity under highly strenuous conditions.
7. Consider that as you develop and demonstrate the skill of nonattachment, those around you will benefit
from the example you set and the light that radiates from you.
8. Work with affirmations, like those below. You might wish to choose one
and rewrite it to suit your own personal style.
I am ready to release all emotional attachment to outcomes.
I hold my mind steady in Divine Mother's Light.
I enjoy living in the peace and strength of nonattachment.