Detachment and Not Disinterest

In our culture, it’s good to be passionate about what is important to us. Being passionate about our work, relationships, hobbies, and interests generates enthusiasm, creativity and commitment. It makes us feel alive! When we want something, we work hard to get to the desired outcome. We get the satisfaction and recognition of a job well done.

What happens when things are not going as planned? Often, the more we care about something, the more frustrated and annoyed we are when things go off the rails AND we start trying even harder to “make it work.” This “make it work” attitude can apply to a painting, recipe, relationship or business deal. Our attachment to the desired outcome, can prevent us from stepping back and bringing new creativity and perspective to the situation. Our attachment is blocking possibility.

Is it possible that want we want is not working for us in the current form? What can be added? Changed? Removed? Do we want something else? Do we need to look at our reasons again?

Our passion clouds our ability to enjoy the journey and detach from the outcome. We need clarity and calm to see new ways of being and new possibilities. The Yoga Sutras teach that non-attachment is key to establishing a steady state of mind (Sutra 1.15) and experience freedom. When we are free from desires, then we are free from suffering. So, how do we practice detachment when we are so passionate about a cause and our minds are designed to create attachment? What is detachment?

Detachment is not disinterest. Detachment is not indifference. Detachment is not suppression. Detachment is not blowing off your commitments.

Detachment is a commitment to the journey for the sake of the journey and letting go of expectations. Detachment is selfless desire. Detachment is releasing attractions and aversions. With friends, detachment could mean having a difficult conversation to clear the air, even though it may change the relationship. At work, detachment can look like doing quality work without expectation of daily acknowledgement.

As human beings, we are wired to have desires, want things, be passionate, and create results. Our default wiring can leave us restless and unfulfilled. What is possible when we can maintain our passion and let go of desire?

Where can we practice detachment and stay interested to create more possibility?


Note: There are subtle semantics around the use of detachment versus non-attachment. I’ll leave that debate to the scholars. For most of us, letting go of attachments and learning to be non-attached or “healthy detachment” will work.

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