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Learning to be Detached

I was recently having a discussion with a good friend of mine. He mentioned that people who have had trauma and have learned to detach to protect themselves would make great Buddhists. They may have spent their lives not attaching to things because things or events had hurt them in the past. A trauma survivor may have learned to “turn off” from arguing or painful situations.

First, let’s forget Buddhism and just talk about healthy detachment, which is what this person meant. Secondly, let’s explore what detachment is and is not. Healthy detachment actually has a lot of attachment in it, it’s just what we are attached to that counts.

A detached person can shield themselves from pain and other things attachment leads to. So isn’t detachment what some of the great traditions are teaching? Shouldn’t we all not care about good and bad and learn to fully detach from the material world, etc.? In actuality, detaching at a certain point can be very detrimental to us. But true healthy detachment isn’t the same as trauma induced detachment. True detachment is involved and aware. We are always somewhere, attached at some level to something, so we need to learn what attachment and detachment are.

Moments arise, and they just keep arising. We are capable of accepting part of what is going on: a conversation, a bus coming at us, snow falling, whatever. A healthy brain functions in a state of deletion. There are always billions of things occurring while the present moment creates itself. So that healthy brain chooses what to attach, or pay attention, to in any moment. The thing is, we don’t only have all that’s actually going on in an objective sense to choose to attach to or be a part of, we also have our thoughts.

We can leave being associated, or attached to this moment and go to an imaginary future, or a remembered past. A dysfunctional brain tends toward not being able to manage these attachments. Someone who has been severely traumatized may have a hard time choosing the things it attaches its brain to in a way that society would deem appropriate.

That said, many people who have been abused may learn the ability to detach from an abusive parent. They use their mind to manage a situation and separate from pain. But detaching from what is is not a blanket good or evolved thing to do. In fact, as necessary as that might be in situations of overwhelm, I’d suggest that it’s much more healthy to stay attached to what is going on, and continually widen our capability to attach to more and more of what is going on.

So if I’m saying we should attach to what’s going on, why is the talk called Learning to be Detached? Because it’s actually the opposite of what a trauma survivor might learn to do. We want to attach to what is, and detach from our own desires, expectations, and delusions. We want to learn to be more and more OK with what is, with this moment.

A healthy happy person is in the moment, meaning attached to what is, they are not however attached to how it’s supposed to be. This talk is not selling blind acceptance, and we should move toward our goals, but it is important to not be consumed by them. Accomplishing goals relies on attachment and discernment. In contrast, an unhealthy detachment is just disconnected. No attachment to things that can hurt us, but no attachment to things that bring joy either. No connection with isness.

So the difference is in what we are attached to. We should try to be aware and attached to what is. If we’re attached to a certain outcome, we’re beginning to detach from what is. If we’re completely disconnected, and not interacting with anything that is, then we’re deeply unhealthy. But in contrast, if we detach from unhealthy attachments, which are usually our own beliefs and agendas, then we are tending toward being more awake.

Show song: Satisfied Mind by Jeff Buckley

Informed Morality

This talk is about how non-dual experience can inform our morality. It was inspired by a magazine article that painted non-duality as morally irresponsible. Non-duality is not irresponsible. In fact, it can deeply inform our morality.

What is morality? Morality defines and distinguishes between right and wrong. Our own history and belief systems are where our morals are born. It’s important to note that our morals are not universal and can vary greatly. As much as we feel “our” morals are correct, they in fact are relative. There are endless examples of clashing morals, and this is where most wars come from.

So if we describe our relationship to morality in shades, we could say that on one side, there is a person who is fully attached to right and wrong, and all the personal beliefs that support what is right and wrong for that person. On the other side, there is someone who is experiencing a non-dual state; they drop the attachment to good and bad and do not experience duality. All different levels of attachment and morality fall in between these extremes.

If we choose to experience non-duality our morals are informed. This does not mean they are lessened, or weakened. We do not now prefer bad to good. Rather, loosening our attachment to morals can bring deep wisdom. Once we see non-duality, we become less attached, and because of this we are able to deal more easily with complex moral issues.

The world is seeming more and more complex as globalization occurs, technology increases, and more choices in general become available to us. It can often be helpful to come to that complexity with the mind of “I don’t know.” Non-duality comes from place of “I don’t know,” instead of the belief based “I know how it should be” mind set. This allows us to approach complex situations in a more authentic and capable way. “I don’t know” allows for finding out. “I already know” does not. Right and wrong attachments can often be based on beliefs that are not relevant or helpful.

People who practice meditation have the opportunity to work with their beliefs as they practice. But all people see the edges of their moral value systems when things upset them. When we get upset, it’s time to get non-dual. Take a moment to focus on your breath and become still when dealing with things, this will allow for a new morality.

Referenced: Friedrich Nietzsche

Are We Stuck In Time

In this talk I describe why we seem to be stuck in time, and what an enlightened mind might look like.

If we have the fundamental understanding that there is only this moment; meaning we cannot leave it to go elsewhere, or more specifically that time is a construct of thought, we can start to understand that we need to relate differently to this moment.

None of us would argue that time doesn’t exist. It just may not exist as we think it does. We can’t go to the future, and we can’t go to the past. There is change, but we are always here. The inner desire for a better future is where our unhappiness comes from. We need to learn to stay.

Any expression of enlightenment is an expression of timelessness. There is no wanting for the future. No struggle, or need for anything more than what is. Any expression of enlightenment also is an expression of abundance. Most of us walk around feeling as though we need: We want that car, that spouse, that job, more money, etc. But every expression of enlightenment comes from a place of not want, not need.

If we can learn to drop time when we see our own dissatisfaction arising we will grow immensely.

These two expressions, timelessness and abundance, are related. To learn about dropping time is to learn about dropping wants.

The freedom from time, and want is learnable. We can practice it. That practice doesn’t have to be hard. Just learn to bring it back to your breath.

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From Form to Feeling

What is the definition of form?  I’m not sure I’ve seen as many different definitions for a word before.  On dictionary.com there are twelve different definitions before moving into forming and other variations of the word.  So what I’ll do is try to tell you how I mean it here…

In the total of experience, if we were to leave that as one thing, there would be no forms.  Forms then arise out of that oneness.  These forms are the things that we separate out, like people, cars, and trees.

So far, they seem to be separate “things” but I want to take that further.  They can also be ideas, and anything else we can name and feel separate from.  They can be a job.  A job has no physical form, but it has an idea form.  Anything that is not us and can be named can be called a form for the purposes of this talk.

A feeling is the experience of a situation, the form is the idea of the situation.  Another way to think of it is that forms seem external to us, and feeling seems internal to us.  All forms are in the thought realm.  Something becomes a form when we give value to a separate entity, giving it a name, etc.

Feeling is open and receptive; it is listening.  Form is naming, or talking.

Two points to make today:

  • There is a literal practice of bringing our attention from the form realm to the experience of feeling realm.
  • When we’re not doing that practice, we become very attached and sad unnecessarily.

We get lost in the idea, or form, of something.  We stick to it past it’s usefulness:

  • salaries – why do we stay in a job when we are unhappy?
  • cars – why do we think they’re beautiful?  What about them do we find beautiful?

“Attached to the idea about something” is how most of us live, but that’s not what we really want.  We want to feel good.  When I believe that money will do that for me I make money my entire focus.  That’s the error.  How many people do you know that are doing jobs they hate because they think they need money?  Do they really know how much money they need?  Have they spent any time trying to figure out where their happiness really comes from?  Wouldn’t that be a better use of their time?

One example of stopping the identification with form can be seen while playing sports.  We can begin to realize that playing a sport is done for the fun of it, not the score of it.  When we get mad at ourselves for scoring a certain way in a game, we’re stuck in the form world.

Another example is when we look at an expensive car and like it, but don’t know why.  We could say we are a little lost in the form world then.  Do we like how pretty it is?  The power in connotes?  Do we know what we like about it?

The fundamental shift is bringing our attention away from forms, beliefs, values, to the feeling of situations, and dancing between those two states.  Ultimately. we could realize that the feeling of a situation is what we really want.

Somewhere we’ve gotten lost in the idea of things instead of the feeling of the moment.

Mindfulness Awareness Disconnect

Beginning to define awareness, mindfulness and disconnected states of being.

The desire to become aware is really the first fundamental shift (there may be more shifts later, but this is the first profound one). So what is awareness? How do we use mindfulness within awareness? And what is disconnect?

An example from Anthony Robbins: We don’t want money, we want to be happy, we want the feeling money gives us. You are disconnected when details like this aren’t clear. We need to be aware when we are not happy. More importantly, we need to become aware of what will make us happy. Mindful meditation is one way to develop these skills.

Busy mind is an example of being disconnected. Getting caught in a belief system of the news, or chasing money at the expense of peace or happiness is being disconnected.

Mindfulness is one pointed. It is being able to leave your mind on something and keep it there. So when we meditate, we are making an effort to develop mindfulness of our breath. But mindfulness is not all there is, awareness is the awakened state that we also want to cultivate.

Awareness is the watcher in the back, without judgment We watch ourselves and allow it all to be. So it is not only the quality of watching, it is the quality of forgiveness. It is the quality of understanding. This is the beginning of wisdom. We start to watch our thoughts and emotions and we stop judging them. This allows us to open to a freedom of being. We don’t have to be as critical as we are. Our inner dialog has gotten out of control.

Why is it unwise to get attached? As everything is made of change, when we try to hold on to things, events, feelings, etc. we will constantly be disappointed.

Referenced: Tony Robbins