How to Use Detachment

May 2, 2014
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By DonnaLyn Giegerich

Terrible things happen to undeserving people all the time. So how can the concept of detachment really serve you as you move through life?

First a word about what detachment is not. We often hear expressions like “it is what it is” or “whatever” in response to some painful event or unfortunate circumstance. We’ve become desensitized or inept at appropriately expressing emotions around challenging or tragic circumstances. This is not what the term detachment suggests.

On the contrary, detachment in yogic terms, according to Patangali’s Yoga Sutras (the bible of Sanskrit teachings), is the idea of “total surrender” in the spirit of compassion. Detachment is the complete opposite of the lack of sentiment expressed in phrases like “man up” or “whatever.” The goal of detachment is to not be attached to the results of your actions.

Whether you reach your goal or not, win or lose a contest or remain healthy or ill, the practice of detachment is cultivated for the sake of the intention. It’s not about the effort you put forth to attain any goal. It’s really about surrendering the outcome to what will ultimately be, regardless of your effort. The beauty of detachment is that equanimity can be achieved by dropping off fear, anxiety and stress around things we cannot control.

Detachment does not suggest a lack of feeling or a void in caring. On the contrary, the practice of detachment recognizes and honors the feelings of sadness, fear or disappointment but enables one to manage these feelings in an effective way.

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For example, when my husband and I were both diagnosed with aggressive, incurable cancers at nearly the same time in our early 40s, we were definitely overwhelmed and felt emotionally hijacked. But in time, with perspective, we were able to detach from our emotions and surrender to the facts. Then we chose to concentrate on what we could do to continue living meaningfully. For us, our happiest moments before, during and after cancer have been serving our community.  We simply continued to do the same in creative ways to help others navigate their career and lives through challenge. We focused on the intention of our work, not on the fact that in the end, we might not live long enough to see the end result of our efforts.

Detachment allows us to always be connected to our inner guide instead of being knocked off guard by shocking circumstances. As we develop our skills, we’re better able to remain in the present moment, develop resiliency and remain fundamentally unaffected by outcomes. The end goal is to be able to live a more serene, calm and balanced life without huge emotional swings. The practice of detachment has been a key component in our ability to remain well throughout our journey. Meditation, yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises) are all methods we employ to build our detachment skills.

These tools have helped us clear the space needed to continue to live at a high vibration in our work and personal lives despite shifting medical news, treatment side effects and impending surgeries and setbacks. As a result, we’re able to focus on who we remain to be despite challenge and grateful for the entire landscape of our lives. I encourage you to explore how detachment and its supporting paradigms might help you navigate your unique journey inward and onward.

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DonnaLyn Giegerich MBA, CIC,RYT, keynotes, consults and coaches on integrated leadership topics in the business, wellness and consumer space to empower others. Her work is viewable at locally you can find Giegerich providing client care as an insurance pro in Red Bank, Brookdale Community College or hosting Yoga on the Lake Summer Series for stressed out leaders.


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