Sunday, April 11, 2010

Detachment or self-abandonment?

How my misunderstanding about detachment in yoga may have helped me give myself permission to temporarily abandon myself

This weekend I went into a yoga class and the teacher was talking about "detachment": an accomplished yogi doesn't react to heat or cold, praise or ridicule. A yogi maintains psychological evenness in the midst of the varying circumstances in life.

I still found myself wondering what are yogis striving to detach from? It struck a chord with me because I think that I may have found myself sidetracked down a blind alley of false detachment because it is really abandonment that serves the imbalance in my personality structure.

"Detachment" is really abandonment when I tell myself I don't care about something because I don't want to feel the hurt. Or when I tell myself that "such-and-such won't like me" rather than giving the situation a chance to develop. I abandon myself when I fall short of exploring a situation that might be fun.

To maintain the status quo inside myself and avoid change I adopted a yogic concept and warped it to serve the needs of my own unrelenting ego. "Detachment" is not a withdrawal from life. Isolation only deepens the yearnings of a person who hasn't opened up to their worldly potential, yet.

Detachment through hardening onesself is not true detachment. True detachment happens through trusting a deeper sense of the process of life. ...and I had been hardening myself, stubbornly trying to live my life the way I thought I should be living it, instead of trusting the process that life naturally offers.

Hardening squeezes sensation out. A hardened state is not an aware state. It is contracted. Small. ...even when someone has a high aim or good intentions.

Acceptance and respect for the natural process of life unfolding is boundless. Huge. It allows for the "x" factor, the unknown blessing, a miracle...

I can be non-reactive by protecting myself, putting up a protective shield, but behind that barrier I am shakin' in my shoes! Fearful or an asshole!

I can perceive the same situation with my eyes, mind and heart open, looking to see what is happening. In this case I am not reacting because I am looking to see, interested in what is going on. If I don't like it I can disengage. But my primary aspect is one of courageous care and curiosity. Compassionate.

I have gotten into trouble when I have used invisible understandings of things, either spiritual or solipsistic, to ignore things actually happening in the moment. These invisible understandings create mental hardness and can prevent me from seeing the truth in a situation.

Over the last week I have been trying out the notion of "respecting the process" of whatever is happening. Totally enlightening... Rather than resisting or controlling, I am allowing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Anonymous said...

Yes. I fear the concept of Detachment has been widely misunderstood by a Puritan America, in particular. By that, I mean, an America that is so frightened of FEELINGS that we repress to the point of violence -- toward self and others. Repression to the point of no sex or rape. You get the idea.

It's not detachment from feeling but from reacting to those feelings without first discerning. That is the detachment that would lead to less war, less hate, more love, etc.

Learning to say yes to all of life, even the really hard stuff, that is the ultimate detachment -- detaching from the immature thought that it's all about us.

Anonymous said...

The "abandonment thing" is something else we have in common, Brooks. And it's something I've struggled with, too.

My mind tells a story about how I am abandoned by family and friends in a multitude of ways. That I am less lovable as a result, and because of that, I find many excuses not to get out there and have fun or meet new people.

And like you, this story has caused me to cut myself off from the world, which is not the same as detachment in the yogic sense - more that it's a way of disassociating with reality. But the abandonment *also* causes attachment, because this story claims we are missing out on something as a result of being abandoned.

To me, the concept (and practice) of detachment has a lot to do with compassion, and seeing the world as it really is... in that the world isn't this object-driven place, that everything and everyone is interconnected, and that my "small idea" of what is important is very limited. Compassion and detachment take a wider view, and they go there hand in hand.

But as you say, to write everything off onto a philosophical idea, while living in the here and now is not being honest with yourself or the situation. I think anyone on a spiritual path can probably lay claim to having done this at least once, if not many times!

Unknown said...

Very well written. Detachment is a very difficult concept for most of us to get our heads around and you explained it well.

Linda-Sama said...

as a Buddhist, "detachment" is a big concept that is easily misunderstood. I tell my students it is "detachment from the outcome." it has to do with equanimity (another very misunderstood term) which is very different from dispassion.

Eco Yogini said...

I agree with everyone here- such insightful post and wonderful comments.

just allowing for the process, i'm still moving towards that goal. :)

Anahita said...

You hit the nail on the head, right here: "Detachment" is not a withdrawal from life.

I guess I've always seen detachment as "stepping back" or a pausing - just for one moment... so that there is more space between event and action ... isn't yoga always teaching us how to create more space? Between the limbs of our body ... between our thoughts... between our breaths?


Elize said...

oh thanks so much for writing this... words/thoughts very good for me to ponder at the moment...