Learning to detach starts with simply noticing our own judgmental thoughts. When we find ourselves using words like should or ought, we're courting dirty pain. Obsessing about what should be rather than accepting what is, we may try to control other people in useless, dysfunctional ways. We may impotently rage against nature itself, even—perhaps especially—when that nature is our own.
This amounts to
mental suicide. Resisting what we can't control removes us from reality,
rendering our emotions, circumstances and loved ones inaccessible. The result is
a terrible emptiness, which we usually blame on our failure to get what we want.
Actually, it comes from refusing to accept what we have.
Victory by Surrender
Surrendering allows the truth to set us free. And how do we surrender? I
recently watched television interviews with two actresses, both in their late
fifties. Each was asked if she'd found anything good about aging. Both snapped,
"No. Nothing. It's horrible." A few days later, I saw Maya Angelou on TV. She
said that aging was "great fun" and gleefully described watching her breasts in
their "incredible race to see which one will touch my waist first." "Sure, the
body is going," she said. "But so what?" Ms. Angelou has said many wise things,
but I thought "So what?" was one of her wisest. It expressed the sweet
detachment of someone who has learned how to rest in her real being and knows
that it is made not of flesh or thought, but of love.
The Fruits of Acceptance
There is enormous relief in detaching from our mental stories, but in my experience, the results go well beyond mere feeling. Surrendering leads directly to our right lives, our hearts' desires. Whenever I've managed to release my scary stories and accept the truth of my life, I've stumbled into more happiness than I ever dreamed possible.
When I stop trying to control my mind—that verbose,
paranoiac old storyteller—my thoughts become clearer and more intelligent. It's
a delicious paradox: By not trying to control the uncontrollable, we get what we
thought we'd get if we were in control. This thought pleases me