Essential Mental Skill #3

    This week, we’re exploring five important mental skills that help us to be healthy, happy, purposeful, and fulfilled. We talked about the importance of “staying focused and persistent” in growing what you desire. Yesterday, we discussed the importance of “self-observation” to become aware of how your thoughts, feelings, and actions move you forward or hold you back. Today we’ll move on to the third essential mental skill–detachment.

    As you uncover the thoughts and feelings that motivate your actions, you’ll find some that you would call “positive” and some that you call “negative.” Some thoughts are about identifying with what you see as “good” things in life. Other thoughts are about judging or pushing away what you see as “negative” things in life. You can call these different sides of the coin your “identifications” and your “judgments.” In both cases, identification and judgment, it’s important to learn to detach and let go of your mental positions. We’ll talk about why this is important in a minute.

    You may have an aversion to a certain behavior, such as smoking, and feel critically judgmental toward that behavior and those who do it. Conversely, you may be attached to other behaviors, such as exercise, and strongly identify with that behavior and with those who practice it. I plead guilty on both counts.

    Why do I highlight these behaviors along with my judgment and attachment to them? It’s because I may feel quite justified in holding these mental positions. I can quite easily defend those behaviors as being “bad” and “good” respectively.

    However, if I hold onto my judgment, I set up resistance against what I see as negative. I may find myself angry when I see that behavior and justified in having negative feelings against it. Judgment creates tension in my body and between myself and others.

    Resisting something takes up a lot of energy and it keeps us chained to what we resist. We make that which we judge a strong force by resisting it. “That which we resist persists” in our mental field and it brings negative emotion into our field along with it.

    The way to detach from your judgments, free up your energy, and increase your positive feelings is to “accept” that which you judge. Accept the thought, feeling, or behavior completely. Even “appreciate” why it is happening. When you do that, you not only release yourself from resistance, you also open yourself to having deeper insight that can move you to a completely different relationship with that thought, feeling, or behavior, with yourself, others, and life.

    On the other side of the coin, when you have a thought, feeling, or behavior that you strongly identify with, that can limit you as well. If you are strongly attached to anything, it keeps you from seeing the bigger picture. If you are identified with specific thoughts it may keep you from understanding other possibilities. If you are attached to specific feelings, it may keep you from feeling what is really happening in your life and from gathering the information that other feelings have to give you. If you are attached to certain behaviors, you may have trouble doing something else that may be more appropriate at the moment.

    The importance of detachment is that it enables you to let go of anything that gets in the way of perceiving situations in a deeper, clearer, more effective way. To practice detachment, look at your judgments and attachments as if you are an outside observer. Step outside yourself or observe yourself as if you are “above” looking down on what you are thinking, feeling, and doing. Create a little space between your judgments and attachments and “who you are” as an observer.

    Detachment frees you from judgments and attachments so that you can realize the fourth important mental skill. The fourth skill gives you insight that leads you to more effective actions and solutions. More on that fourth skill tomorrow.

    Kevin

    Kevin Schoeninger

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