Sunday, September 6, 2009

Detachment and the True Nature of Compassion

"Everything is equally unimportant" -Don Juan speaking to Carlos Casteneda

I remember standing in line at the bank in 1975 and reading The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Casteneda and unbeknownst to me at the time, a lifelong interest in shamanism was taking root. I was literally spell bound, reading word for word the saga of Carlos in the desert, usually making quite a fool of himself as he trounced along with his intellectual concepts which were often times met with uproarious laughter on the part of the wise Shaman Don Juan. It was during this read that I first came face to face with what I would later come to realize were lessons in detachment.

Most of us learn that being compassionate is understanding anothers pain which often includes helping to ease that pain, listening with rapt attention, and most importantly problem solving in order to create a "better" outcome for our friend. All in the spirit of helping of course! But what Don Juan is speaking to is that when we become entangled albeit with the best of intentions with other people's issues, then we lose our own vital energies. We can become tired, confused, frustrated, and even sorrowful. Understanding with compassion does not by nature imply that action need be taken, and in fact it may imply the exact opposite: being a witness to the joys and sorrows of our friends lives while respecting their personal space gives them the wonderful gift of compassionate detachment.

Viewing the world through the lens of detachment allows us to encourage choice. When we support others in making their own choices even if we do not necessarily agree with those choices shows respect and promotes equality. And, when we detach with love then we avoid the traps of fear which include control, manipulation, and anxieties. We can turn off our thoughts which are judgmental and very convincing, instead focusing on our hearts, opening to love while remembering that we cannot with certainty know what is right for another human being. It is then that we may experience agape or true compassion.

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