Buddhism is built on this principle.
And through studying religions I’ve discovered that it’s a central belief to many others, including the Bahá’í and Krishna faiths.
This idea offered by religions is unique in that you’re unlikely to find it anywhere else. It’s certainly not a core ideal of secular society. In direct contrast to the ‘you need more’ of materialism, it dares to tell us that in fact, ‘we need less’; and what we already have shouldn’t define us. Our relationships, our possessions, our careers, and the things that happen to us on a day-to-day basis should be treated as separate from us: not essential to our ability to function, to love or feel joy.
By practicing detachment, we free ourselves from expectations, which lead to disappointments, misunderstandings and pain. For example: If I walk into a café and order French toast based on a friend’s recommendation that it’s the ‘best she’d ever had’, and when it arrives I instantly begin assessing it, comparing the presentation and taste to that of every other café’s French toast I’ve ever eaten; should I find it lacking in some way, my meal is ruined. I’m disappointed, annoyed, and may possibly even start complaining to the person I’m having brunch with – spoiling their enjoyment too.
But, if I order the French toast with no expectations, complete detachment as to whether I’m going to agree with my friend’s assessment or not and choose instead to like it no matter how much ‘better’ another café’s identical dish might be; I’m set up for a much happier outing. The outcome of the meal doesn’t determine my personal level of joy.
I used to sail to the highest heights and come crashing down again just as fast if things didn’t go exactly how I’d planned them to. I pinned everything on my expectations rather than reality, with 100% attachment to my anticipated outcomes. One very level, even-keel friend pointed this out to me and said if I could keep my expectations in check then I’d be able to achieve a steadier, more balanced life. At first I scoffed, and told him this sounded pretty boring.
Three years down the track, and the more religions I’ve explored, the more I’ve seen the wisdom held within this practice of detachment. It’s beautiful in simplicity and can be applied to nearly every situation.
Just try it. Next time you hear yourself saying, ‘It would be so incredibly awful if ______ didn’t work out’, replace that emotion with detachment. You may find that things have a way of working out for the best when instead of stressing you choose to: