Detachment, Surrendering, and Letting Go

Last time I talked about not hoping. Couple weeks ago I talked about not limiting yourself with predefined principles. I will tie them together into the topic of detachment, surrendering, and letting go.

There is a pattern of human behavior that has existed for eon. This pattern, this behavior model got built into us, carved into our minds since birth through family, through friends, through commercials, through culture, through society. Everything around us tells us to work hard for what we want, and as part of the package is the expectation of certain beneficial outcome, or perhaps some notable achievement. Sure it feels great when we get what we want. Quite often, we don’t. And when that happens, we get angry, depressed, frustrated, disappointed, worrisome, jealous… naturally.

Or is it? Or is it naturally because that is what we are programmed to think?

Natural or not, that is besides the point. Certainly now, we can agree that there are so much burden that comes with expectation because we are attached to an outcome.

What is expectation? It is none other than a thought of certain outcome. The thought comes from certain aspect of our ego. The certain outcome provides significance and effects that enhance some aspects of our ego. Say you are a father, you expect your wife or children to obey or at least behave in ways that acknowledge your authoritative figure in the family. Say you are a senior, or maybe a genius programmer, you expect yourself to create a new software design that is a breakthrough and will dominate the market share. Say you are a CEO, you expect your decision to bring unprecedented profit for your company. Anyways, you get the point.

It is this expectation, this hope, this thought of wishing for good outcome that causes much suffering. It is the inability to let go of thoughts of a future that is good for yourself — your ego. Selfish? Yes. Attachment is selfish and causes suffering, but detachment is also selfish because you want peace for yourself. Selfish is okay. Just that between being selfish and in pain, and being selfish and in peace, the choice is obvious, eh?

So, on the other side of attachment is detachment which can offer us peace and joy. Yes, accomplishment, achievement, milestones… they offer moments of happiness, excitement, feeling of being proud of yourself, but how long do they last. We know they do not last forever.

People keep on chasing and chasing because they are attached. Along that path, they suffer. They desire endlessly for the next best thing that will fulfill expectations and hopes, which then make them happy. They dread and feel pain when the next best thing never comes. Such is the suffering of attachment.

And you know the story of our lives?

When we are young, we are to study hard in school and expect good grades. When that happens, the parents and children feel good about themselves. However, that does not last, which leads to the next thing…

When we finish one level of school, we expect to get in a better higher-level school — star high school and Ivy League univeristy — because of the previous diligence and good grades. When that happens, the parents and children are happy and excited again. However, that will not last either, which leads to the next thing…

When we finally finished studying hard in the academia and received the degrees, we are expected, again, to study hard to “win” interviews in order to land a wonderful or a “dream” job. Once that happens, we feel proud and excited again. But darn it, that does not last very long either, which leads to the next thing…

Now that we have a stable job/career, we are expected to get in a relationship (or already into one). Sometimes we expect to get “swept off our feet” by meeting one person, which could be cool. Either way, when things go well in the relationship, we are happy and we feel bliss, but certainly that does not last forever because no relationship sails smoothly always. There will be conflicts along the way. That leads to the next thing…

Ok, this paragraph is not quite a next thing, but if we are not in a relationship or do not care for one, then we expect ourselves to accomplish something, do something extraordinary career-wise probably. It is about either getting rich or famous. When that happens, we again feel the rush of happiness and excitement in life. Unfortunately, that will also be ephemeral. Once those feelings end, we expect ourselves to accomplish something more, to feel happy again, to feel alive again. Meanwhile, we expect ourselves to do this next thing…

Now that we have succeeded, dated enough… or not… we are to pick a person, someone who is perfect or complimentary enough to marry as partner for life. Then we get married. And we are happy and excited because we are finally hitched. But only momentarily, again! And by now, we are all thinking, “When does it end!?!? What’s next? What do we do?” Well, I think at this point, people either get divorced or have kids and get stuck. And the children and parents together start the cycle all over again (just go back a couple paragraphs back…). And at each step, when what is expected does not happen, we suffer.

Of course, there are people and couples who learn the wisdom of living in the moment and live joyfully together for a long long time. Notice I used the word “joyfully”, not “happily” because they are different. Happiness is an emotion that does not last forever. Joy comes from being aware, having peace in order to see things as they are, having the curiosity to observe, and appreciating the wonder and amazing qualities of each moment.

Returning to the topic of suffering caused by attachment and expectation. I am not saying to do nothing with your life. I am not saying that the stuffs that happen in life I describe above are bad.

Well then, what am I saying?

First of all, I think that given this life, we have responsibility to do as much as we can with this life because this is all we have. To do so, we have to master ourselves. Be our own master. But it is quite difficult to be a master of yourself when you are suffering.

The attachment to our hopes and expectations cause most of the suffering in our life. We expect this and we expect that, and we suffer when we do not get this and that. So logically, let us play without attachment. Let us play the game of life with detachment. And doing so allows us to exploit our full potentials.

Surrender yourself to your thoughts and expectations. Be aware and know that they are there. Sure they exist in your head. Just realize that they are there, fully feel what you feel each moment, and then let go. We are only human after all to have thoughts and emotions and desires. And we have learned for years to expect and hope for this and that. Be okay and surrender to your thoughts and emotions, expectations and hopes. They are merely that, and you choose your actions.

On the other hand, please remember to be okay with being happy when you are…

Surrendering and letting go are not passive. Rather, they are not the opposite of giving up because you must allow yourself to be fully aware in each moment in order to see your thoughts and feel the emotions, to sense your mind and body. As such, you make the conscious choice to observe yourself most nakedly, both the good and the bad. Giving up is allowing yourself to be ignorant, to succumb and be dictated by your thoughts and emotions, to not be responsible for yourself.

And perhaps stop doing things out of expectations. Make your own decision. Let go of the outcome. Then you will do your best.

Just be careful not to get attached to the outcomes of detachment, it is another form of attachment that will cause you suffering.

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