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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

Nested Duality

What is nested duality? This talk begins to discuss the play of opposites. I talk about the importance of relating in new ways to good and bad. Ultimately this talk is trying to convey the error of nested duality which is when we make the non-dual experience something good.

As we look at good and bad closely, we see we can relate to the concepts in different ways:

  • Good and bad can feel like absolutes. Things outside us that we have no control over.
  • Good and bad can begin to define one another. Without bad, there is no good.
  • Sometimes perceived bad events end up being good events.
  • Good and bad can be seen as perceptions of is-ness. We realize that we are much more involved in good and bad than we originally thought.

As we take responsibility for ourselves and our perceptions, we learn we are intimately involved in our perceptions of good and bad. They end up being our judgements. As we learn we can “mess” with our perception of good and bad we start to wonder about non-dual experience. A non-dual experience is experience without duality, without good and bad.

When we first learn about non-dual experience we see that we can escape good and bad in a certain sense by staying in a nonjudgemental state of mind. Sitting in stillness can be very pleasurable. Often times people get the idea that non-dual states are better than dual states. This is where duality has come back in, this is nested duality.

Once we’ve made the non-dual state of mind better than the dual state of mind, we’ve been caught in nested duality. If we begin to prefer, or call good, the non-dual state of mind then it is no longer non-dual. This makes it very hard to correctly sell this state of mind, or even point to it, because when we do we are not in it. But when we treat the non-dual experience in this way, it becomes just another opinion, another belief. It becomes something we think about instead of do.

Introduction to Transparency

When something is transparent it is able to be seen through. In this talk I make an effort to show the link between transparency and awareness, making the assumption that awareness is healthy. Transparency is an idea that can be applied to any system to allow that system to behave healthily and naturally. Systems mentioned include self, companies, governments and society in general.

Exposure puts natural pressure on behavior that is only OK behind closed doors. Lies in personal relationships, corporate dumping, dishonest motivations of governments all become fixable when we are aware of them. For us to be aware of them, these systems need to make efforts toward transparency. While it’s true that most entities may not immediately want to become transparent, there are many reasons to motivate them to foster transparency. Companies can become more profitable by fostering internal and external transparency. Governments can run more smoothly and efficiently as well. As more individuals understand this concept and want to foster it, we can bring these ideas to the systems we’re a part of.

We all have emotions to help us make appropriate behavioral decisions. If we allow for too much privacy, we can hide behind walls and bury emotions of shame and guilt. Those feelings would naturally curb behaviors if we were only to remove the walls of privacy. It’s easy to continue doing destructive things if we think no one is watching. Once we know others can see us, natural systems kick in to guide us.

Our legal system is losing the battle of specifics. We can’t write specific laws to govern all action successfully. We need a more elegant and complete idea to work from. Any elegant solution ends up being a simple solution. Transparency offers us a simple central theme to work with any system. It fosters awareness in any size system and helps us all resonate at wider levels of identification.

Learn To Surrender

Surrender means to give oneself over to something. The type of surrender I’m discussing in this talk is not a sign of weakness, in fact, it might be the greatest sign of strength. The ego doesn’t usually like to hear about giving in or surrendering, but one of the greatest teachings we can learn is to surrender.

This practice is learning to allow your ego to surrender to what is. No experience is bad when we learn to drop the conflict around a situation. That conflict is the ego’s desire for things to be other than they are. Surrendering to what is is the dropping of the ego for true experience.

Surrender implies awareness, because we need to know what to surrender too. Learn to ask yourself what you’re feeling, that brings about awareness. Then the trick is allowing yourself to be the thing you’ve become aware of, to be what you feel. Often this will seem counter intuitive: I don’t want to be sadness; I don’t want to be anger; I don’t want to be cold. But learning to be these things, even when that isn’t what you want to be, is true surrender. It is waking up to be what you are. That is surrender, and it can change your life.

Realizing We Have Enough

It makes sense that people who don’t have much feel a sense of lack. It doesn’t make as much sense that people who have tons of stuff, lots of money and means, also feel lack. One point of this talk is that the sense of external lack is driven by an internal lack. If we learn to get our joy from inside, we don’t need these external things to the same extent. Another point is addressing the actual lack in people and places on this planet.

I’ve talked before about the state of consciousness that expresses enlightenment comes from a place of abundance. It has arrived. It has what it needs. It’s interesting to see that the external things we want, all the Christmas gifts, and all the status we shoot for, they are fleeting. As I make a higher salary, I still want a higher salary. There is a treadmill here, and I’m not going anywhere no matter what I get or accomplish. Can we see this fictitious sense of lack and expose it?

Real lack does exist on our planet. There are lots of people without enough food. Lots of people without homes and basic needs being met. But at what point do we realize that we are abundant? For those of us that are not starving, and do have shelter, at what point do we feel abundant? Most of us never do.

This sense of lack drives our governments and our corporations. If we were to realize, deeply realize that we are abundant internally. What would change on this planet? One way we can make a dent in the actual lack on this planet is realizing we have enough both internally and externally. If we have enough, we can begin to share.

One could argue that there has been an evolutionary need for the feeling of lack. In small circles without enough resources the strong survive. But now we can see the entire planet, and we’ve never been able to do that before. We all have enough. There is enough food. There is enough money. For the first time in the history of the world, we can see that there is enough.

Those literal external expressions of lack are probably not fixed only by a redistribution. We can’t necessarily just feed the hungry. Historically that ends up creating more dependence and corruption than help. So the issues of lack are complex. But we have the capacity at this point to realize that we all can make it. In the past only some of us, the strongest of us, were going to be able to make it. But now we have the technology and the capacity to work toward all of us making it. All of us having meaningful and productive lives.

What would change on this planet if we all realized that there is enough? There is enough joy. There is enough food. There is enough money. The world is abundant. We are not stuck. The only thing keeping us stuck is our own erroneous sense of lack.

Honoring Imbalance

In this show I discuss honoring imbalance. Many people (including myself) critique the world and describe the need for “balance” (listen to my last show, I use that very term). This talk discusses three ideas:

The first idea is that everything is in a state of achieving balance. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. As we push something over, we watch it achieve a new balance. The action involved is the “balance through movement” also known as imbalance.

The next idea is that we prefer an ideal state of balance, but that’s just not realistic. The entire world is in motion. Constantly balancing itself through imbalance. The beauty is in honoring the imbalance. We have the capability to stay still through that motion.

And lastly, on the level of betterment, imbalance brings growth. When we’re stressed and feeling the pressure, we can be comforted understanding that we are growing.

Getting to the Beauty

This talk is really an exercise looking at the split between internal/external, and thinking/experiencing. I discuss the words below and ask you to identify with each word as I do.

thinking experiencing
form feeling
outer inner
external internal
different similar
motion stillness
time now
attachment freedom
expectation actual
them us
you we
disconnect awareness

 

First we go one by one down the rows identifying with each side. Then we look at the left column, and identifying with all those states of being. Lastly we look at the right column.

The point of this is to show that we often find ourselves living external thinking lives only. We should balance that with the internal feeling experience from time to time. Being able to dance freely between these different states of identification is a deep fundamental shift.

This Path is Not Easy

Everyone listening to a podcast like this is trying to better themselves. I want to commend all of you for trying to do that. This work is difficult, and not enough teachers say that’s the case. Many sell this path as an easy fix for people. It can often be very difficult. Meditation is hard. Being authentic is hard.

The big point of this talk is that learning to be authentic brings up difficult things to deal with. You end up seeing that there is potentially a lot to change in your life. Our unconscious lives leave large patterns and situations that we see are not authentic. Examples include: relationships that are codependent and messy, the tools we use to deal with life can be destructive, our work may be dissatisfying, etc. It can be very scary and difficult to deal with these situations once they arrive.

So why do we choose to do the work? One reason is because we have to do it. There is something in you that is searching. You wouldn’t be listening to this podcast or reading this blurb if that weren’t the case. Something in you knows that there’s got to be more. Once we start looking at ourselves, our belief systems, our own inner becoming, we notice that on some level there’s a lack of authenticity in our lives. So truths begin to open up to us. We can’t go backwards. Once we’ve seen that our life isn’t authentic, we can’t unlearn that.

Other reasons we do this work is because we find our joy in different places now. We learn not to fear “bad” situations or “bad” emotions. We become courageous. We become whole. However, you may not get the same pleasure from old things: TV shows, drugs, drinking, overeating. In fact, that lack of satisfaction may have started happening before you knew you were beginning this work. That dissatisfaction is what ends up making people search more deeply.

Disconnect, which is a huge tool for dealing with life situations, may not feel the same. It may not bring the same “peace” it once did. You will, at times, miss it. It has been what you’ve used to deal with many of life’s problems thus far. Instead, you’ll now rely on presence, and being true to your feelings.

Teachers often imply that this path is simple and natural; and that the now is always available. That is true, it is easy, but it also can be hard… to find the easy. It’s not a long path to this moment. It’s always right here, and yet we still miss it. Being authentic can be hard. Be courageous. Keep working. You might find there’s not much else to do.

The Pleasure Pain Treadmill

Basic ideas:

  • Seeing that good and bad, or pleasure and pain are in all things.
  • We can use pain to promote change.
  • Ultimately, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.

Our desire to avoid pain and experience pleasure tends to push us around if we are not paying attention. When we use introspection to learn about the mind we see that we all try to avoid pain and move toward pleasure in everything we do. This is a huge thing to understand fully.

Pain tells us something is wrong, but we tend to overreact and begin to avoid all pain and discomfort. This creates a treadmill of pain and pleasure. Where we are constantly trying to manage our states of mind by moving away from pain and toward pleasure.

We can deal with this three ways:

  • Do nothing.
    • How does this hurt us? Well, if we’re unconscious of it we end up not being very durable. We end up running from any and all pain we see. We might think we deserve no pain, and so whenever it comes up, we feel like we’re cursed or unlucky.
  • Secondly we can learn to use pain effectively.
    • Think of someone who’s life situation is fine, versus someone who is in pain. The person in pain is motivated to change. The person who is fine, may want to change, but will often not go through the bother or work to change because there is really no motivation to do so. This is the first way to use pain effectively. Become aware of it.
    • We can also use pain for gain. This is a way to develop in a worldly sense. It can help us do things like lose weight, or perform better at sports, and evolve spiritually or behaviorally. We can learn to associate pain to things we’d like to change, rather than where they happen to fall. Examples of this might be associating pain with being out of shape, or associating pain to not meditating.
  • Lastly, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.
    • Pain is inherent in all things. The duality of being shows us that there is both good and bad in all things. Good and bad are facets or opinions of things and situations. So it is unwise to try to always get the “good.” It just won’t work. Seeing this truth is a huge teaching.
    • Learning to accept pain as a part of the experience is a great teaching of meditation. Pain/pleasure treadmill response is the normal human response to being. What would an exceptional response look like? How can we achieve that state? Meditation is one way.
    • We place ourselves in an accepting mode, and train that response to stimuli. Boredom and frustration, and even physical pain can come up during meditation. It is training to learn about the nature of our relationship to pain and pleasure, and ultimately have the ability to get off that treadmill.
    • We learn to stay through different painful events and not judge them. That lack of judging gives us a different, and better, experience of both pain and pleasure. Then we are off the treadmill.

Learning about this allows us to wake up to the understanding that this is how we’re built. We also learn that we can use pain to grow. And lastly, we learn that not fearing pain or being attached to pleasure allows us a deep freedom. Those experiences are a part of the oneness of being. We can learn to relate to them differently.

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Finding the Similarity

It would help us greatly if we decided to look at others for our similarities instead of for our differences. It is very natural to see someone of different color, or ideas, and focus only on the differences. In this show I discuss some examples of how we focus on the differences, and how things might be different if we were to realize how alike we all really are.

When we come from a place of looking first at differences, we tend to assume that everything about the person is different. If we can realize that we are basically similar, and that the differences are in the details and perspectives, then we would have much less conflict in our lives.

The ways in which we are all similar:

  • emotions
  • physical traits
  • needs
  • behaviors
  • we all want to prosper
  • etc.

Focusing on differences is very natural. Similarities seem boring. Of course we all breathe. Of course we all feel fear. Not very exciting stuff. But coming into a situation with that literally on our mind helps us to see things in a cooperative way instead of a conflicting way.

What if nations focused on similarities? What if religions did? How might that change our world?

Show Music: A Lesson In Crime by Tokyo Police Club

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