Musings About Detachment, Health and Happiness

My dear cousin Jessica and I on a trip to upstate New York

A few weeks ago I was sitting by a lake with one of my favorite cousins Jessica. Jessica has a very calm voice, often soothing in nature. I know that she has strong opinions and emotions (as most of us do, at least occasionally ;). I admire her skill at detachment, and do not be fooled folks, ‘detachment’ is a skill. One that has roots in many philosophies including Taoism.

The Tao-Te Ching was written by Lao Tzu, a sixth century philosopher who is known as the father of Taoism. This ancient Chinese text is the world’s most translated classic after the Bible.

Lao Tzu was not his real name, but an honorific title given to the wise sage, it means “Old Master.” Lao Tzu called attention to the ideas of simplicity and compassion. Lao Tzu was probably the original proponent of “going with the flow”.

In the Tao-Te Ching Lao Tzu expressed the concept of attachment/detachment in this quote.

“Fame or Self: Which matters more? Self or Wealth: Which is more precious? Gain or Loss: Which is more painful? He who is attached to things will suffer much. He who saves will suffer heavy loss. A contented man is rarely disappointed. He who knows when to stop does not find himself in trouble. He will stay forever safe.” Tao-Te Ching

On a more practical level, holding onto things, replaying them in your head and getting emotionally attached causes A LOT of stress. Stress is not only detrimental to our emotional state but also to our bodies.

Here are some of the effects of stress as listed on WEBMD

Effects of Stress on the Body – Common symptoms include:
A fast heartbeat.
Stiff neck and/or tight shoulders.
Back pain.
Fast breathing.
An upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea.

Plus Over time, stress can affect your:
Immune system – Constant stress can make you more likely to get sick more often.
Heart health – Ehink high blood pressure, increased heart rate etc.
Reproductive organs – Stress is linked to low fertility, erection problems, problems during pregnancy, and painful menstrual periods.
Lungs – Stress can make symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worse.
Skin – Skin problems such as acne and psoriasis are made worse by stress.
Panic attacks – In extreme cases the reaction to stress can be a panic attack. Characterized by sudden, intense fear or anxiety that may make you feel short of breath, dizzy, or make your heart pound.

Doesn’t sound like much fun does it? So maybe the ancient Master was on to something???

To be happy and healthy it is important to practice detachment from all that goes on around you, the constant stimulation, from family, work, life! Of course we all experience challenging times and must endure. Being detached is not the only component to health and happiness, but a change of perspective can make the journey easier. Perhaps take a moment, observe the  event or experience rather then define it as as good, bad, a blessing or a disaster, because once labeled the possibilities have been immediately limited.

When you feel the need to hold on the most tightly, it’s time to take a step back.

Personally I find writing (I know big surprise), getting outside and a good yoga class to all be wonderful ways for me to detach. What do you think? How do you practice detachment? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Comments 2

  1. It’s quite a practice to do when you really need it,especially for me in a-personal relationship. Finding your center and not being swayed by the barrage of emotional ideas and onslaughts . Is crying a form of detachment ? Because afterwards I feel more so 🙂

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