In Buddhism, it is believed you must live a life detached of all things worldly in order to reach enlightenment, and in all honesty, to be realistic about how this whole life thing ends. The idea that nothing is permanent is central to Buddhism, so basically, do yourself a favor and release that burdensome attachment to anything or anyone. . . or suffer. Pretty depressing stuff.
When I was younger I went through a few phases. I changed my mind frequently and tried different hair colors and religions to determine which felt most right. One of the religions I frequently came back to was Buddhism. Although the notion of detachment seemed sad, there was something attractively liberating in this promise of an autonomous existence. Either way this concept felt out of reach. I was quite attached to attachment.
Over the years, I revisited this idea but it still never fully resonated until recently. I woke up 10 years later and got it. . . at least a little more. We as humans don't realize the attachment and association we place on things. And although I thought I was “really evolved” for my age, I was no different. I had built an identity on several things and when I scratched my head that morning it was pretty damn clear that none of those things were me.
Your job, your car, your parents, even your lover, none of these things are you. Some of these things are a reflection of your choices, but that’s as close as you're going to get.
It became clear to me in that way you see on the big screen with lots of flashbacks to key moments and shitty haircuts. I saw myself making introductions to people and talking about how I was in advertising and really wearing that as a badge that put me in a certain box. I saw myself feel judgment from people, friends even, when I made decisions while I was soul searching. I saw myself feel embarrassed to pull up driving my old car. I saw myself feel bad when a relationship fell through. All these awful assumptions I had put on myself.
Years later, this notion detachment finally began to settle in. I realized that I no longer introduced myself leading with my job because isn’t me. It’s something I do to earn income so I can do the things I love. And while this seems like an obvious observation, if you search back, you may be doing the same. You are not your job. You are not any of those things you think are you. You are somewhere separate and you are a unique gift. There is nothing as simple as a job that can scratch the surface of your divine being.
I realize this can be “new agey” for some people, but it is true. You are not those things. You are not your car. I am not my car, because if I was, I’d be an Aston Martin.
The real bridge to begin accepting this world of Buddhist detachment is the idea that your true essence and those things you thought you were attached to are not mutually exclusive. In other words, yes, you are not your job. But if you have a job that isn’t your dream, are you out of alignment with the cosmos? No. If you like having a beautiful home in a nice area, does that make you materialistic? Of course not. You cannot get attached to these things, but you can strive to attain them. This is the circuit that needs to connect, and when it does, there is no limit to what you can achieve because you will know your worth, what you do, where you live and the difference.
You are meant to experience this world and all it has to offer, both the good and bad. Life, including the things you own, your job, your car, your love, your family life, all of it will go up and down like a heart monitor. Knowing these things don’t define you will save you once that heart monitor dips down. Truly understanding that these things are separate from you will keep you from feeling pompous and elitist when the heart monitor is up at its peak. I don’t want to be either of those people, and unfortunately, I’ve been both. I admittedly have felt shame when I thought my life was lacking and overconfidence when everything went right. Now, I understand a more simple appreciation. And I still struggle with it, but when I do, I take a moment to ground myself and refocus my awareness to this moment in my life, right now. This moment, this situation, this is not permanent. Your job, your house, the people who judge or look down on you, the people who praise you, none of these things are ever constant. Your ability to know your truth is the only thing that survives.