Understanding the Difference Between Non-Attachment vs. Detachment

Words and design by Brian Thompson.

The teachings of non-attachment shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of love or compassion.

It's often mistaken as detachment, which is something altogether different.

Non-attachment is essentially a practice of presence and mindfulness. It is not allowing your sense of wellbeing to rely upon anything other than your own presence of awareness. It means to be in the world, but not of the world.

Detachment however, means to distance oneself from the world out of total disinterest. It’s an aloofness that separates oneself from the rest of the world. Essentially, it is escapism—which is a form of suffering.

A practice of non-attachment however, doesn’t affect how you appreciate, love, admire and enjoy life. It simply means that your happiness is no longer defined by anything outside of you. In other words, you remain free.

The question is often asked, "How does the practice of non-attachment affect one’s personal relationships?"

It improves them, greatly.

A non-attached relationship is healthy, strong and filled with effortless love, kindness and compassion. In other words, it is totally selfless because your sense of ‘self’ is no longer inserted into every situation. You are no longer self-centered or selfish, and you become single-pointed in your awareness of the other person. Love and intimacy isn’t diminished in the least, in fact, it becomes even more intensely focussed—but you no longer self-identity with it, as it, or through it.

Non-attached love is pure and present.

If you allow your sense of self to be emotionally swayed by everything that appears to you—including all people, places, perceptions, thoughts, sensations, events, experiences, and all seeming things—then your emotions will forever be riding a roller-coaster of ups and downs.

You will be a pendulum that forever swings between joy and disaster.

It must be understood that your sense of wellbeing is always based upon whatever you allow yourself to become emotionally attached to.

When you become attached to something your happiness is based on a duality, and it will be relative (impermanent). You will define yourself by the outside world, rather than with your true inner nature. But if you remain un-attached to the things you experience, then your happiness will be absolute and undivided.

The solution to our rollercoaster of suffering is to simply get off the egoic ride altogether.

It’s a practice of being in the moment—unattached—but with total interest, love, acceptance, compassion and intense curiosity; all while abiding in your unshakeable sense of inner calm and your unbound presence of infinite awareness—at peace in your true Self.

Non-attachment is freedom from things. It is a self-realization of the truth of reality—that you, consciousness, can not be affected by anything. It is only the egoic mind that makes you believe otherwise.

I like to think of non-attachment as being similar to the teflon coating on a frying pan—it certainly doesn’t stop the pan from cooking the food, or from doing a good job, or even from enjoying its work. Once it’s finished, everything just slips off without leaving any trace.

No emotional scrubbing necessary.

The memories aren’t gone—but you’re not attached to, nor defined by them. All is well.