Detachment is the action or proces of disconnecting, cutting off, separating. The word detachment is used a lot in meditation literature, as if it were a virtue. Detachment is a practice for recluses such as monks and nuns, who cut themselves off.

Monks and nuns take vows to cut themselves off from life:
I will cut myself off from sex. Thwack. Celibacy.
I will cut myself off from money. Thwack. Poverty.
I will cut myself off from self-will. Thwack. Obedience.

Chop, chop, chop. That's a lot of cutting, cutting off. When it works, renunciation results in brilliant inner light. The energy that would go to pursuing those passions turns instead to the soul.

Technically, the idea is to simplify your relationship with the world, and in a sense, live as if you are old and about to die.

I do not know what percentage of the time it works to exert your will and cut off some part of your life. The monks and nuns aren't talking, or we aren't listening. But very often, that which is cut off or repressed returns with a vengeance sometime later. You can see this in yogis, who preach celibacy while seducing the wives and/or children of their disciples. They wanted to be celibate, but their second chakra has a mind of its own!

Sometimes renunciation works for awhile, a few months or a few years. But spiritual circles are full of people who are crazy from amputating parts of life. They are trying to deny sex, and have become Victorian-insane. They claim to deny money, but are filthy rich from exploiting their disciples. They make a show of being obedient to God or some lineage, but what they are really doing is demanding obedience from everyone, and demanding God be obedient to them. Go to any spiritual circle – Christian, Buddhist, Hindu – and you can see variations of the game of pretending to give things up, while covertly going for it.

Whatever we cut ourselves off from, comes back at us someday, to be negotiated with. Sex, money, and self-determination. Sometimes you find yourself feeling phantom pain from the amputated limb. You ache with the sense of what you gave up. Sometimes this pain fades over time. But in many cases, it comes back with a vengance. That which you have cut yourself off from comes back to haunt you.

So when you find yourself feeling phantom pain, pay attention to that ache. Tend to the sensations, and see what new calling life has for you.


There is a quality of non-attachment that is a side-effect of being inwardly rich and self-sufficient. Because it is a side-effect, there is nothing to practice directly – detachment is not to be practiced, nor non-attachment. What you practice is being rich inwardly.

Cutting yourself off from things is often a necessary part of life. You give up being single in order to get married. You give up hanging out in bars if you want to be sober. You give up sex for awhile if you have been a slut. You give up on deserts if you want to lose weight. You cut yourself off emotionally from your ex-husband when you are in the process of getting divorced.