The Winter issue of Blue Mountain Journal is here and the topic is Detachment.
Detachment not only releases joy; it is also the secret of health. It is the best medical insurance in the world, and not only because it can keep us free from physical habits that sap our vitality. Most illness has a serious emotional element. While there is an important place for physical measures in the treatment of disease, a mind at peace and a heart flooded with love can release healing powers that strengthen and revitalize the physical system. Strength can be regained even after years of emotional instability. In extreme cases, I believe, recovery can be brought about even from what seems a terminal illness.
Today, of course, it is widely appreciated that because of advances in medical knowledge, we can expect to live much longer than was reasonable at the beginning of the twentieth century. But we can lead lives that are not only longer but richer, more loving, and more productive. The next steps in stretching the limits of human health and longevity, I believe, will not be in biotechnology. They will come from learning to govern the way we think and feel. Detachment is a longevity skill. Freedom from compulsive emotional entanglements is the best insurance against stress. More than that, by opening a window onto a fuller, loftier view of life than that dictated by self interest, detachment brings a sense of purpose. Without a reason for living, the human being withers and dies inside. However paradoxical it may sound, it is detachment that enables us to give ourselves wholeheartedly to worthwhile work without ever getting depressed, despondent, or burned out – right into the last days of our lives.
Most people who work hard – which means most men and women in this country – bring their work home with them, yapping like a poodle at their heels. At the dinner table, when they sit thinking about their deadlines and responsibilities, the poodle is nestled under the chair, whining away. They curl up with it at night and dream about reports that haven’t been filed, statistics that don’t point to the right conclusions, mail that hasn’t been responded to or that has been sent out with the wrong memo attached. Detachment gives us the capacity to concentrate completely while on the job and to drop our work completely when we walk out the door.A detached worker is a reliable worker, a cheerful worker, a harmonious worker. And when you can drop your work completely at the end of the day, you arrive home ready to give all your love to your family and friends. You feel fresh, relaxed. You have no need to give vent to the kind of frustration that millions of good people air: “Leave me alone. I’ve had a miserable day!” Mahatma Gandhi worked fifteen hours a day for fifty years for all of us who want a politically free world. When he was asked, “Don’t you want a vacation, Mr. Gandhi?” he said quietly, “I’m always on vacation.” It wasn’t a flippant reply; he meant every word of it. So don’t content yourself with two weeks in July or two weeks at a ski resort in January. You deserve three hundred and sixty-five days of vacation, and that is exactly what detachment can give you.