Detachment versus Non-Attachment
While these two terms are often mistaken for one another, non-attachment and detachment are in truth completely different concepts.
Non-attachment is essentially is a practice of mindfulness and presence in the existing moment. Detachment, on the other hand, means a complete lack of interest in the world around you. Detaching yourself means to distance yourself from the rest of the world, usually in an attempt to avoid disturbing feelings.
How often have you been clinging onto something–a person, a relationship, a habit, or onto material goods far longer than you needed it, or in an unhealthy way? Clinging on either material or nonmaterial things prevent you from finding happiness and freedom in life.
You will not find peace, however, if you get rid of attachment. Instead of avoiding attachment, we should strive to experience the peacefulness of Buddhist non-attachment.
Non-attachment means the ability not to hold on, not to grasp on objects, people, and experiences. Letting go doesn’t have to mean to get rid of something. It rather involves the ability to find peace and happiness within ourselves, at the same time cultivating feelings of compassion, love, and empathy towards others.
If you practice non-attachment in a romantic relationship, it likely means that you will dive into a relationship with profound presence and mindfulness. You will nurture qualities such as love, trust, compassion, forgiveness, and empathy, at the same time not attaching yourself to your own or your partner’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Also, a non-attachment practice allows you to understand that happiness doesn’t come from other people but from within yourself. A practice of non-attachment helps you understand that your happiness is not defined by things outside you. This sets you free from holding on to other people, experiences, and possessions.
Detachment involves distancing yourself from experiences, often in an unhealthy way. It may involve escaping the existing moment through non-constructive or even harming behaviors such as excessive eating, excessive shopping, spending too much time playing video-games, watching TV, abusing alcohol and drugs.
Unhealthy detachment mechanisms include withdrawing from a situation or a relationship, detaching from your needs and the needs of your partner, and self-medicating with alcohol or drugs to numb feelings of discomfort and anxiety. Detachment may involve pulling away from an argument with your partner by avoiding or ignoring him or her, for example.
How Non-Attachment Benefits Our Life
Non-attachment allows you to be present at the moment, at peace and acceptance with your true self. It also improves your relationships, making them strong and filled with non-demanding love and compassion. Finally, a practice of non-attachment allows you to define yourself by your inner nature rather than by the outside world.