I don’t know what came first – the urge of detachment from people or the relief I felt without them. I don’t remember a certain day I changed from a social pleaser to a self pleaser. It dawned on me more naturally than I could have anticipated. I gracefully took in the little discomforts and social awkwardness until I was full. Then I knew I had evolved to the next phase of my transformation. We, humans only keep oscillating back and forth in fixed behaviours until we plant our consciousness in divine. The divinity takes us through powerful evolution (sometimes challenging because we are rooted in a materialistic world). Whereas without it life is just a series of random experiences that hardly compliment each other or in some cases, are too similar in nature and hence, do not command growth. It is in our spiritual nature to grow and to seek. So many times I meet people who have a stable job, a secure life, a family and some even perform charity, yet they are deeply disturbed with the lack of something they can’t figure out. In the process of growing outwardly to secure worldly stability, people often forget to grow inwardly.
I, too, had a super fun early 20’s with a large no. Of friends, I had a good job, I was traveling, my family was pleased and I did little charities along the way but only I recognized a harrowing void. I sobbed in churches for reasons I didn’t know. People who were visibly poor, made me cry. I filled my head with thoughts whenever it felt calm. My relationship with everything was like a huge tangle of power cables hanging overhead but no wire was connected to my source. I was too proud to believe in divinity, too restless to ever sit down and question my pride (I can say this now but I didn’t realise it back then). I got married in a big joint family with the most harmonious façade but worse spiritual fractures than my own. The only positive vibes the house carried was of our 2 pet dogs. Therefore, my void only grew. My inner-self reflected in my outer life and it began collapsing on me.
Tired and broken, I decided to catch a ride to the mountains of Tehri, some 350KM from home and spent night in a lone hillside cottage with nothing to assure my safety but faith. I remember lying on the bed in pitch dark, sobbing and finally feeling released of a chunk of anxiety. I came back after 2 days, only to return to madness. The urge to run away had never been so strong. But, the answer came to me like a light whiff of opening a window.
I began meditating. Slowly, the outer realities only affected partially. I did so everyday for next 3 years yet I never learnt to separate people’s action and behavior towards me from who l think I am. Subconsciously I was evaluating my worth through their judgement or my idea of their judgement which made me restless, aloof and silently rebellious. So, in a bid to save energy, I avoided people happily and I reassured myself, “I am a spiritual person, detachments were bound to happen.”
Some weeks back, I suffered from chikungunia fever. My body felt broken. The fever, the hdeadache, the body ache was severe and my old joint injuries resurfaced. I was bedridden most of the day and wobbled the remaining. My husband outdid himself to be of assistance but what was happening inside my body, he couldn’t help. I shifted to the next room to avoid my toddler seeing too much and told my husband to deny anyone wanting to come and see me. I told him that mostly people just end up making me feel worse about my condition or start their own raga of misery. I was in mood for none.
The lack of a loving touch is felt most sincerely during sickness. Every time I’d feel emotional, I would meditate. Then during one session this came to me – My idea of detachment was truly trashy. Far from spiritual. Not only was it rude to others and it was bitter to me. My taste of spirituality was feeding my ego of being spiritual, in other words, I made myself and others who claim spirituality stand on a higher ground than those who don’t.
A singular thought enlightened me – Detachment comes from wisdom of acceptance. You could be in a crowd, being talked to by several people and yet nothing overwhelms you – that’s detachment. You could love people deeply and they may not, or they may love you differently yet, you take it for truth without adding your emotional drama to it – that’s detachment. You may truly dislike someone’s behaviour but they knowingly or unknowingly indulge with you but you keep it unresponsive on your part – that’s detachment. You want to leave, or want someone to leave, mention it politely without worrying what anyone will say of you – that’s detachment. If we seclude ourselves physically but we irk at the mention of people or society, how is that detaching? Nurturing acceptance brings with it kindness and understanding.
I don’t mean we have to force ourselves to understand people but we don’t go into personal point of views. We just leave it at that. Don’t work that up at all.
We are surrounded by people everywhere we go (unless we retreat to mountains), true spiritual test lies in breaking our own definitions and comparisons. How much trauma we bestow on our soul in the name of assumptions and repulsions. We need none of it. It is possible to let things go as easily as they come.
There’s an excellent hindi doha (verse) by great Indian Saint of Humanity named Kabir Das,
खड़ा बाज़ार में कबीरा, मांगे सबकी खैर।
न काऊ से दोस्ती, न काऊ से बैर।
“I stand in a place full of people, wishing everyone well.
I am no one foe, and no one’s friend.”
Since this epiphany, I have found greater peace in myself. I have learned that there is no end to self discovery. How infinite are we! And if one thinks about it, detachment really is the only way we can make the world around us, a kinder place – one person at a time. The list starts with us.