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Bella and the Spiritual Practice of Detachment

For Bella, the word “attach” was easier to embrace; the word “detach” was much harder. It felt like a cold word; she pictured the kind of person who didn’t let herself or himself need anyone or anything. A take-it-or-leave-it kind of person. Bella could not imagine becoming this. She veered away from it anytime it came close to her doorstep, thinking that she was choosing warmth and compassion. What she didn’t realize was that the word and practice that she kept rejecting was the very key to the door that could lead to the inner peace she longed for. God is very patient, waiting until enough of life happens so that we are willing to actually explore these keys of the kingdom – detachment being one of them.


Contemplative Outreach, an organization founded by Father Keating, talks about a practice of Welcoming Prayer that actually introduces us to the practice of detachment by encouraging us to let go. Through Welcoming Prayer, Bella realized that detachment doesn’t make us cold people at all – it frees us from compulsions that tear us up inside and draws us to be attached to God above all else. Now the love that we love with is purer, with no strings attached, accepting and loving others just as they are without needing them to fill our deep and broken chasms. Now we don’t try and drink from an empty well or a well that belongs to someone else but we drink from our own well, finding deep satisfaction.


Here is the simple description of Welcoming Prayer from Contemplative Outreach:

1. Feel and sink into what you are experiencing this moment in your body.

2. “Welcome” what you are experiencing this moment in your body as an opportunity to consent to the Divine Indwelling.

3. Let go by saying “I let go of my desire for security, affection, control and embrace this moment as it is.”

Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. recommends “Start practicing the Welcoming Prayer with the little things in life--small, everyday frustrations like sitting in traffic or waiting in line at the grocery store. Practicing with the small things prepares us for the bigger upsets.”


From the Book:

For each practice in the book there is a chart that lays out a great description. For this particular practice of detachment, I think it would be helpful to share it as we don’t hear about this very much and it is hard to understand at first.


Desire Behind Detachment

To nurture the spirit of trust that is attached to God alone


Definition of Detachment

Detachment means replacing the attachment to (1) idolatrous relationship (2) self-serving goals and agendas for success, money, power, ego, productivity and image with wholehearted attachment to and trust in God alone.


Scripture Support for the Practice of Detachment

“(Jesus) said, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.”’ (Mark 8:34-35 The Message)


Practice of detachment Includes:

· Naming and confessing attachments that take priority over God

· Allowing others to lead and win

· Letting go of image management

· Letting go of notions that your money and possessions belong to you and make you who you are; living on less rather than more.

· Trusting outcomes to God rather than your own capabilities

· Honouring the freedom of others; refusing to manipulate and control in order to get what you want


God-Given Fruit of the practice of Detachment

· Keeping company with Jesus in the letting go

· Freedom from an identity attached to image, possessions, achievements and so on

· Quickness to repent and center your identity in Jesus

· Freedom of addiction to your children, your family, your house, your money, your job, etc.

· Less need for temporal security; more trust in God

· Freedom to live as God’s beloved

· Living out of your true self in Christ

· Dying to self; losing your life to find it

· Realizing that following Jesus includes descent, loss and death, and to live in a way that finds God in the midst of these things

· Learning the lessons of letting go so that you will be prepared for the final letting go of death


Spiritual Exercises:

1. Take an attachment inventory. Write a list of the defense mechanisms you are attached to (sarcasm, temper tantrums, aloofness, clowning around). Ask God to make you aware of the times you instinctively move into your defensive response. Consider what seems to trigger your response. What response would you like to cultivate instead? Share your observations with a trusted friend, asking them to pray with you.

2. Practice letting go by giving away something you are attached to.

3. In what relationships are you experiencing pain right now? This is often a real sign of an attachment of some sort. An attachment to looking to this person or this ideal as how you NEED it to be in order to be at peace. An attachment to a longing or a dream that you have had that includes this person or these people (family or friends). An attachment that exposes your fear of rejection or of not being important or needed. This invites deep inner work in the area of detachment.


Photo by Sara Darcaj-Unsplash

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