Some Misconceptions About Detachment

letting go

While researching the concepts of detachment there seem to be various opinions on the subject. In traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism attachment is the inability to embrace detachment and seen as the main obstacle to a fulfilled life. Many other traditions identify the lack of detachment with continuous worry manifested by personal ambitions.

Throughout my adulthood I’ve attempted to practice detachment—giving away half of my wardrobe, letting go of wanting more power, more money…more. But that was just the beginning.

After the September 11th attacks I felt as if my life had been ripped of its existence. My co-workers, whom I was blessed to call my friends were tragically taken from their loved ones. My office on the 95th of floor of Tower 2, where I’d spend the majority of time had turned to dust. My itty-bitty New York City bubble, consisting of going out for cocktails with my girlfriends every Thursday, dining in the finest restaurants and shopping at the luxe shops suddenly seemed trivial. What was left if there was nothing tangible to hold on to?

Not too long after the tragedy I received an email from the company I worked for requesting that I make a list, comprising of any property I had lost in the collapse. It would later be determined if I would receive a monetary settlement from the loss.  I shuddered at the thought. What could I expect from this tragedy except healing from this tremendous loss? I immediately moved the email to the trash.

The next morning however, I retrieved the message and printed it. I stared at the piece of paper for over thirty minutes before I made my first entry.

I closed my eyes and envisioned the office I shared with three other co-workers. Each of us had our own closets, conveniently located behind our desks with additional drawers below. On rare occasions I’d bring an extra outfit to the office in case my work attire deemed too “stiff” for a night on the town. My most expensive and impractical belongings came to mind. “One leather coat… $1,500.00… One pair of shoes… $180.00” As I continued to write a painful knot formed in my stomach. “This isn’t right,” I thought. Not only was there a leather coat and pair of shoes left behind. There were photos of co-workers, with negatives—hundreds of them neatly placed in an album at the bottom of my closet. Nothing had been salvaged.

I violently crumpled up the sheet of paper and threw it in the recycle bin to the right of my desk. I couldn’t bear to associate my personal loss with that of thousands who had passed.

Through the years I’ve realized that attachment isn’t only concentrated on the material items we long for every day, but the connection we have with those we know and love.

If we are truly present with every living being we are in contact with, there is no fear of detachment. We are whole; connected to who we choose to give our attention to and how we incorporate it into our lives.

Since we arrive in this time and space with absolutely nothing but ourselves, and ultimately leave this Earth with the same, what is it that keeps us wanting more?

Ali ibn abi Talib said, “Detachment is not that you should own nothing. But that nothing should own you.”

It’s the ego’s need for wanting more. The ego is not satisfied with the stability of our relationships or the fact that many of us don’t have the high-priced items seen in our everyday lives. It is up to us to hone in on our inner strength to be mindful of what we truly desire, and decide whether it is something to hold dear to us, or ultimately let go of.

The memories of my beloved friends are still fresh in my mind, and as my photo of the World Trade Center on September 7, 2001 and book will be at the 9/11 Memorial Museum on May 21 I’ll be reminded of what was, and what is right now.

Do you find yourself attached to material items or even personal connections? Please share your comments below.

photo credit: Beverly & Pack via photopin cc


About Michelle Cruz Rosado

Michelle Cruz Rosado is a professional speaker and bestselling co-author of "Pursuing Your Destiny: How to Overcome Adversity and Achieve Your Dreams." Follow Michelle for inspiring messages and quotes.