I am frequently awed in the face of the way that contemplative practice heals and transforms us. Yesterday I was reminded of this wonder while listening to a client share an experience they were having that they did not fully comprehend. This client had grown up in an abusive situation and in recent years had been doing the work of healing from the effects of the abuse. In their healing, they had suddenly realized that the way in which they viewed and interacted with the abuser had dramatically changed. In the past, interactions with this person would have hurled my client into a storm of negative emotions and downward spiraling thoughts. Now, they simply felt nothing. “Is there something wrong with me?” my client wondered. We explored further the “nothing” that the client was now feeling and determined that there is nothing wrong with my client – they had simply achieved the spiritual state of detachment. Achieving this state of detachment was proof of the healing that has taken place in my client and I congratulated them on being open to allowing healing to be done in this way.
Detachment is an interior experience of being able to be present to the situations of our life as an objective observer. In this state, we are no longer prone to judgement that then hurls us into negative emotional reactions, but are able to simply be a witness to our life experiences as they unfold- free from the negative emotional dramas that previously plagued us. Detachment is the fruit of diligent attention to inner healing through contemplation.
Detachment is a remarkable gift as we traverse through the ups and downs of our human experience and is especially helpful in our human interactions. From a place of detachment, we are able to be present to the people in our lives who may have hurt us in the past or with whom we might typically struggle. Instead of being drawn into the negative emotional cycle that we create around these people, or being drawn into someone else’s drama, we are able to simply observe. From this place of observation, we are freed of our typical judgmental or defensive response and are able to be present and when appropriate respond from a place of truth and compassion. Detachment also empowers us to create healthier boundaries in our human relationships. We are no longer tempted to get drawn into drama or other unhealthy dynamics and are able to freely choose how we want to interact (or not) with the people in our lives.
Detachment is also helpful as we witness the unfolding of our life. We are no longer tempted to cling to expectations of certain outcomes and are able to simply watch as our life happens. In this way, we open ourselves up to that which the Divine knows to be in our highest good. We no longer judge the circumstances or outcomes in our life as good or bad – but recognize that they simply are. We are then able to regard our life from a place of wonder, curious as to where it may be leading us and how this may be influencing the future direction of our life. Detachment allows us to move through our life with more grace and ease, free from worry and the compulsive need to control. Detachment allows us to know more fully our true nature as men and women of freedom and peace.
Cultivating detachment begins with the simple awareness that this state of peaceful observation is possible. As was evidenced by my client, no effort was made on their part to specifically cultivate detachment, it simply arose as the fruit of their willingness to be open to their journey of healing. The same will be true for us as well. The invitation then is to simply be open – open to the healing love of the Divine that draws us closer and closer to freedom and peace.