Why suffer holding on to anything?
Watching the inauguration of the US President on Friday last, I could not but help reflect on the beauty of the American democratic system. Every 4~8 years it promotes the effective practice of detachment – not just for those administratively connected with the Presidency but for all American people. As Michelle and Barack Obama’s Executive One helicopter took off from Capitol Hill, I felt, the moment was poignant. “That’s it. The Barack Obama Presidency can never be back. America has to let him go. No choice,” I remarked to Vaani. I felt a lump in my throat, as did Vaani, as did perhaps so many millions of people across the world. But such is Life when it comes to the American Presidency. Which is why I feel it holds out a great lesson in detachment to all of us.
We often think of detachment as something which is beyond the reach of common folks like us. We think of it as the exclusive prevail of more evolved, spiritually-inclined people. But I think different. Each of us is capable of understanding and practicing detachment. All we need to do is to celebrate the impermanence of Life itself. If you are born, death is certain. So, when Life is impermanent, transient, why cling on to anything? In a way, one of the most powerful positions in the world – purely going by the worldly definition of power – has a limited-period tenure, between 4~8 years. So, why suffer wanting to hold on to anything – least of all material?
I believe that the key to happiness is to be detached – from what you possess, from what you want, from what haunts you, from what possesses you, from what worries you and from all who you love or dislike. If you can immerse yourself in whatever you love doing – painting, cooking, gardening, reading, singing, cleaning, whatever – without regard to either space or time, then you can call yourself detached. Then you can only be happy!
In a way, I guess guided detachment helps. Like in the case of the US Presidency. During the early months of our bankruptcy (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal), I found it very difficult to stop worrying. It seemed such a natural, normal, thing to do. When you don’t know what to do, you end up first worrying that you are clueless. Then you start being fearful. And you are soon pinned down and held hostage by your fears and your worries. It’s an ugly state to be in. I hated being that way. Then through my daily practice of mouna (silence periods), I learnt to postpone worrying. The more engaged I was in the beauty of the present moment – however imperfect it was, it was always beautiful – the more I was able to detach myself from my worries and fears. I told myself that we were waging a war. And to fight that war, Vaani and I needed to be in top gear – physically, emotionally, spiritually. So, every evening we came home battle-scarred, but we refused to let the pressure get to us once we sat down for dinner. This is how I trained myself in the art of detachment.
Detachment doesn’t mean you are irresponsible. Nor does it mean inaction. It simply means you are smart enough, intelligent enough, not to take Life so seriously that you stop enjoying the journey because you are obsessed with the reward – a reward that you cannot anyway take with you!