Working with Our Strengths
Detachment – Part 3
By Dr. Robert Leichtman
Scripture: Psalm 8
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angel and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
The great value of the practice of detachment is in how well it separate us from the common tendencies to be annoyed or distracted when we need to be calm and constructive. Our many useful talents and mature skills can be undermined or displaced by our tendencies to be bored, angry, or discouraged. It is the practice of detachment that can separate us theses sabotaging habits so we can liberate the best judgment and appropriate attitudes for our current situation.
This is the third of three discourses on the constructive role of detachment. This is a practice that helps us to step back from our usual attitudes and automatic habits—especially when negative—so we can choose a more positive and helpful option.
A common use of detachment occurs when we are fatigued or bored and would prefer to take a break or discontinue what we are doing, but we know we must keep going and complete our tasks. Despite that a part of us wants be comfortable and abandon duties, a more conscientious part of us will choose to do what is right rather than what is easy.
Detachment is an skill that might seem to be a minor activity, but it allows us to control our habitual thoughts and feelings. In turn, this can enable us to appreciate that we have better options than the usual attitudes we have about common events. For example, some people are habitually annoyed when they have to wait for something, or they are frequently upset when other people talk too much or take too long to make their point. It is the practice of detachment that helps us to recognize that we are upsetting our self when we permit these minor annoyances to dominate us and interfere with being more appropriate and mature in our response. The ability to be detached helps us to restrain these automatic reactions and substitute patience and tolerance for being judgmental and irritated. The result is that we can promote tranquility and cheerfulness for our self instead of energizing discontent all through us. In a more global sense, the practice of detachment that gives us the mental space to review all of our mundane habits that not only fails to honor our dignity but also upsets us.
Detachment works in this manner because it begins with the simple realization that who we in our totality and wholeness is always more than:
- a pile of memories
- a set of appetites and desires
- or the frustrations and disappointments that go with them
Likewise, we are always more than:
- a collection of assorted aches and pains
- another collection of friends and enemies
- and a whole lot of worries
Detachment enables us to back away from close identification with these factors, and in doing this, we are able to examine them as if they belonged to another person. In other words, detachment gives us some objectivity to appreciate the quality and appropriateness of major beliefs, attitudes, and .habits of reaction. This enables us to recognize where our usual response to outer events might need major revision or elimination, especially in our habitual response to:
- ongoing challenges
- people & circumstances that irritate us
- our usual worries
- and any chronic health problem we might have
So often we can be stuck in repetitive moods of discouragement, resentment, worry, guilt, and apathy. When this occurs, it keeps us stressed, preventing healing change, and preserving our continued frustration. The ability to practice detachment allows us to move our state of awareness to state where we are able to appreciate that:
- we are not just our feelings and beliefs
- but that we are the observer and director of them
- and in many ways the creator of our thoughts and feelings, meaning that we can be their master
When we fully comprehend these facts, we will be able to redirect our thinking and emotions to impose a more healthy and sensible response to outer events, assorted annoyances, and how we view our challenges, illness, and enemies.
Pushing away our old beliefs and attitudes also helps us to unveil the inner resources of our higher human and spiritual possibilities. All of us have heard of:
- the wisdom of spirit that guides us
- the power of spirit to give us the strength to do great things
- the love of spirit that relieves our annoyances & resentments
- and the peace of spirit that can soothe us
Most commonly, people tell us that is our faith and devotion that is necessary to tap these resources. However, it more often is detachment is also an necessary tool to help us reach past our fears, doubts, petty resentments that veil these higher possibilities. Until this is detachment is achieved, our faith and devotion will work under a very severe handicap.
When we are immersed in our usual disappointment and frustration about life, we will often have a strong expectation that significant change is unlikely to impossible. These expectations will most likely cancel out mush of our attempts to apply faith and hope about better possibilities.
Detachment is comparable to peeling an orange so we can get past the bitter outer shell and taste the sweet content of the fruit. It is not just faith that gets us inside the fruit. It is our skillful and simple activity. Likewise, it is our skillful direction of our thinking and attention that moves our mundane beliefs and feelings aside so we can connect with what is behind and beyond them. What is beyond our usual thinking and attitudes is:
- our capacity to observe and rethink what to believe
- our ability to consult our common sense and stores of goodwill
- our power to control our response in a healthier manner
- our determination to set aside our usual annoyances, anger, fear, sadness
- and chose to think and act in more thoughtful ways
In this sense, detachment is a gateway to a more mature ways of viewing our life experiences and responding to them in the full understanding that:
- we are more often a victim of our fears, doubts, resentments, & disappointment than any outer circumstances or persons
- we are upsetting our self with these reactions and recreating our distress by how we think and feel about key events
- and we have the capacity to redirect our responses in a way that leaves us more in control and more comfortable about what we say and do—or not…
Detachment is the gateway to being able to understand our higher possibilities in knowledge, virtue, and skill plus our ability to activate these potentials. In other words—detachment from the mundane—helps us to have the actual experience of knowing—not just believing that:
- we are more than our thoughts and memories
- more than our feelings, desires, and frustrations
- and that we can transcend them to control and, revise them or use better ones
Knowing we can do this enables us to move to a powerful status of: taking charge of our troublesome worries and disappointment and revising our beliefs and our response to challenges. More directly, this means we have the ability to revise:
- our sense of who are
- no longer as a victim
- and no longer feeling weak and inferior because we can’t control our petty fears and doubts
- but as one who has the power to define our self by something better than our reaction to outer events and disappointments
Those who are super-religious and claim to be under the direct control and guidance of the Creator will find that an authentic experience of the Divine can actually begin when we step back from usual beliefs and expectations as well as our passive surrender. This creates a mental space for a more direct connection and communion with our higher human and divine possibilities rather than our personal beliefs about them. There is often a huge difference between our personal expectations and a genuine experience of the same.
Many who consider themselves as very spiritual have been misled by expectation that the divine presence will just come to us when we are ready and/or need them. This is to include the healing resources we need to cope with an illness, confusion, anxiety, sadness, and recurring anger and depression. Many are convinced that our belief in God takes care of all the preliminaries, messy details, and the actual work of achieving what we want.
This expectation is a bit naive, although it does work once in a while for some. Good people forget that our Creator expects us to contribute to our own welfare and growth. This is particularly important in areas where better coping skills, courage, and love to manage:
- our special problems and challenges from unresolved conflicts
- our distress about unmet needs for affection, approval, and support
- our illnesses and discouragement
- our difficulties in our relationships
We need to remember that we come to earth with a divine inheritance of many spiritual blessings and gifts. Foremost among them are an innate design or blueprint for a healthy body and personality as well as the potential wisdom to guide us. However, discovering, activating, and engaging these resources does not happen automatically. Our conscious understanding and involvement is required to be effective in revising and healing our regular beliefs and habits.
Note: many are still afflicted with the false notion that:
- God is entirely outside of our self
- we as personalities are mostly incompetent, broken, and full of sin
- and therefore, are unable or unworthy to receive divine blessings
We may not personally believe these false ideas, but they have saturated mass consciousness. For this reason, these beliefs can still have an impact on our subconscious and contribute to some of our blind spot about uncritically accepting the abundance of false ideas and nonsense in group minds and popular movements.
Fortunately, a bit of direct experience from our own explorations can help us find the proof of the ideas that are presented here. This is how all of us will find the truth—not by more belief and faith—but by our direct experience.
It will be useful to recall the scripture at the beginning of this discussion.
(God), you made people a little lower than the angels. you crowned them with glory and honor and placed everything under their feet. When God subjected all things to divine authority, God left nothing outside of this control.
With a bit of translation and paraphrasing, this scripture is reassuring us that:
- all of us have a divine origin; we are created just a bit lower than angels
- our Creator has crowned us with glory and honor, meaning we arrive at birth with many blessings and an endowment of many divine potentials
- authority has been given to us (that is, both opportunity and responsibility) to cultivate these seeds of greatness, wisdom and love in who we become and everything we do
While we do not see many manifestations of divine perfection, this only means that we are far from completing the work of transforming and enlightening our character, both individually and collectively in society. This further implies that we need to perform additional skillful effort to:
- denying (setting aside) our old self (old habits and beliefs)
- taking up our cross (our duties to master our problems and enlighten our character and our lifestyle)
- and learning to engage and implement our spiritual design for enlightened living
All these possibilities are enabled as we skillfully practice the full potential of detachment in how we view and work with both our higher human and spiritual guidance to heal and transform our character and lifestyle.