The Freedom (and Challenge) of Detachment

Written by Dani Marie Robinson

Most spiritual teachers worth their salt, including all the popular ones (Deepak, Eckhart, Osho), speak in depth about attachment.

Being aware of our impending deaths practically since birth, we humans cling to life and our possessions as though we can bring them with us into the next phase. We cannot. And thank the universe, because that would all be quite burdensome.

There’s a fine line between defining and adhering ourselves to our accomplishments, beliefs and opinions, jobs, loved ones, homes and other assets; and severing all ties between us and those outside “things.”

I’d never want to live life aloof, indifferent or apathetic, but that’s not what detachment implies. 

Detachment implies acceptance, specifically of life’s transience. We cannot predict or control another and therefore, we’re bound to be surprised and disappointed by many in our lifetime. How we process this delight or disturbance indicates our level of attachment to outside influences.

I’ve had my heart broken and it sucked, royally. If the me now could talk to the me then, I’d say, “He wasn’t what you’d hope he’d be, someone else is. Move the f*ck on, idiot. “

I am mean to myself sometimes. I’m very, very blunt. I spent three years attached to my heartache and disconnected with thousands of potentially great human beings because of it. My attachment to what was left me incapable of embracing what is or open to what could be. I glued myself to the past. If this happened to me today, I’d allow time to mourn and be sad, but you bet your ass I’d be keeping myself in line toward a better future, and more importantly, a happier present.

No one owes us anything. That’s the hard part to accept. 

We were born. That’s enough to feel monumentally grateful and excited, but the rest is a cosmic crap shoot. Our pasts define us so long as we carry it and our present reality is a direct reflection of our internal state, our attitudes and mood toward the world and its inhabitants. It benefits us all to detach from what we cannot change, from outcomes and what-ifs, and just enjoy the ride.

When I fell in love again after being heartbroken and bitter for so long, the initial infatuation and lust stages were coupled with bouts of anxiety. I felt grossly needy. And because I was also wickedly prideful, I’d keep this from my partner, but inside I was terrified. I was falling in love, I felt my heart leaving my possession and becoming his, and I had no clue what he’d do with it.

There’s the issue right there. No one can take possession of my heart, my mind, my happiness, or my acceptance but me. I’ve been rejected from schools, friends, men, jobs, and other attempts, and I’m still here.

The embarrassment and shame I feel from being wrong or from failing is all my ego’s worry about how I’ll be perceived, yet another thing I cannot control. 

As long as I keep learning, as long as I exude kindness and acceptance outward, I am an impenetrable force to be reckoned with.


Attachment has never reared its ugly head more than in response to our recent election. I, too, was a bit nervous, very passionate and hopeful, but that day I never felt more at peace, because I remembered what Yoga has taught me time and time again. There will be losses, failures, tragedies and missteps. There will also be major wins, successes, gifts and good fortune. Each will come and go like a breeze, but I will remain like a tree; deeply rooted, with courage to reach for the sky.

I’ve been afraid to pursue what I love for fear it wouldn’t work out. To that, I now say, who cares? I am the only judge that matters and so long as I operate from a loving place, not hurting others, my successes and failures are my business, they’re for me to grow.

Taking ourselves out of worry for the good that will inevitably pass and the bad the may or may not strike us delves us deeply into presence. We are at one with the flow of life, enjoying every hug and kiss, accepting every opinion no matter how strange, choosing to treat ourselves how we wish to be treated first, leaving any desperation and need for others to give us what we already possess behind.

We cannot hold onto any moment, person or thing, nor can we wish any negativity away. Living life fully predicates these experiences. We take the good with the bad, we absorb what we choose and we move forward how we choose as well.

Be selective in your thoughts, acknowledge the image and possessions you define yourself by, knowing all are subject to change and dissolve eventually.

The very acceptance of death frees us to live. 

Embracing the reality that you will live through monumental highs and lows allows you to let go of resistance and fear, choosing love and inner peace instead. Of course we want to get our way, and it’s unfortunate when we don’t. Acceptance and non-attachment frees you to live light, happy just because, grateful to be alive, and this positive disposition then opens you to other opportunities that wouldn’t have come your way if you stayed in a state of contention and dissatisfaction.

Regret is a waste of time. I’m where I am today because of the mistakes I made in my past, but often I imagine how my life would’ve been different had I decided not to choose sadness and loneliness, living with a severely guarded heart. If, instead, I’d unchained myself, trusted in my ability to handle the inevitable ups and downs, I’d have met so many more great people, learned so much more about myself and life, and I wouldn’t have given an outcome that could never be changed the power to hold my happiness hostage for all those years.

Detachment places the power over bliss in your hands.

It is not dismissive or distant. It’s confident, open, vulnerable, accepting, forgiving, resilient, encouraging, supportive, and the key to navigating these unpredictable waters we call life. Let people be who they are. No matter what they do or say to you, you will be fine.

Detachment makes space for courage to take the risks, to follow unbeaten paths, to love with reckless abandon, and to live without the constant fear of loss. We are already enough, simply by being born. When we define ourselves by our hearts, feeling grateful for every single breath, happy to share experiences with others along our way, we honor the gift of life and we set an impeccable example for others to do the same.

Detachment is freedom. Care deeply, but accept through and through. Celebrate successes, learn from failures, remain kind and humble; the acceptance you give yourself will set a barometer for happiness you’ll no longer sink below. Detachment allows you to float on.

It seems esoteric and often paradoxical, but detaching allows you to fall in love with the life you are, rather than being defined by the life you have. Eckhart Tolle reflects, “How do you let go of attachment to things? Don’t even try. It’s impossible. Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them.”

You are all that you seek. You are enough. You are whole. Detach from everything outside of yourself and you will soar, inside and out.

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