Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Being Present & Detachment

This morning I read 'Tuesdays with Morrie' by Mitch Albom, which chronicles the conversations between the writer and his dying mentor, Morrie Schwartz.

There are two concepts which stood out for me. One I have thought about for a while and one I never quite got, but that maybe sunk in a little more for me.

The one is 'Being Present' or what some call 'Mindfulness'. That when you are with someone or doing something, that you are completely present and focused. I find this very difficult. When something is worrying me, or I am trying to solve a problem, it tends to sit with me. You end up with hundreds of thoughts floating around your head, and sometimes when you are physically present with someone, you catch yourself half way through the conversation where you have 'lost your place' and don't know what they have been saying. You may even having been nodding your head, and robotically repeating bits of what they say. This kind of focus may be incredibly difficult, but I am sure that being able to get it right would make the world of difference both in the world of work, and in the world of play. Maybe you are lucky and those two worlds are the same for you.

The second stand out point was being detached. The Buddhist concept of not clinging to things because everything is impermanent. I have always thought that is a cop out. Aren't we supposed to experience life, both the good and the bad. It is the reason I allow myself to be completely irrational about Sport. Did it matter when Habana scored in the final minutes to deny the Sharks the Super 14? Did Allan Donald's crazy run and dropping of the bat matter? Probably not, but if I had not experienced the depths of disappointment then, would I have enjoyed the '95 and '07 Rugby World Cup victories as much. In case you think I am trivialising this, there are more personal examples I could share... but this blog is not the place.

So detaching doesn't seem right to me. Here is how Morrie explains it:

... detachment doesn't mean you don't let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That is how you are able to leave it. Take any emotion - love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I'm going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions - if you don't allow yourself to go all the way through them - you can never get to being detached, you're too busy being afraid. You're afraid of the pain, you're afraid of the grief. You are afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails.

But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, ' All right. I have experience that emotion. I recognise that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.'

That makes more sense to me.
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