Learning to Let Go - How to Practice Detachment

A young woman with arms outstretched and eyes closed stands in a field of flowers.

In mindfulness and meditation, we talk about becoming the observer. This helps us realize we are not our thoughts. The more we can detach from our thoughts, the less we are worried and stressed out by them. 

The trouble is, letting go is something we are expected to do daily, sometimes all day long. We have to do it while we are not meditating, doing yoga, playing the singing bowl, or anything else mindful and intentional.


Step One: Acknowledge What You Must Let Go

Many people only acknowledge there’s something to let go of when anger is involved. However, we all have something in our lives that we need to release, even way before any anger bubbles up. Think about what this is. 


Here are a few examples of situations where detachment would be of benefit:


  • Your child is applying to colleges and refuses to attend the one you suggest.
  • You’re worried your partner will leave you one day.
  • Your house is very cluttered but everything somehow has value, even if you don’t use it.
  • Your family refuses to discuss or apologize for painful events of the past.
  • You consistently feel as though your coworkers are better at their jobs than you are.
  • You criticize your appearance regularly and deny all compliments. 

Two: Detach from Belief. 

We tend to hold our “beliefs” in even higher regard than our thoughts, but they’re often the same. The difference is, we accept beliefs. Our thoughts seem to evolve as we have them, so it’s easier to question them. Beliefs are thoughts we’ve had so many times, we accept them as facts, consciously or not. 


You don’t have to throw out everything you believe, especially morally, but belief is a common denominator in many of the above examples. You’re not thinking you don’t look good in those pants, you believe it. You don’t wonder if your family is intentionally slighting you, you believe it.


This is a very helpful distinction to make, and one that you should start in meditation. 


Three: Quit Your Job as a Fortune Teller. 

Sometimes, you have to hear something a few different ways before it clicks. Instead of telling yourself to “stay in the present”, practice repeating, “stop predicting the future.” The thing that’s keeping you stuck hasn’t happened. 


In an example above, we mention a cluttered house. There’s a box of broken toys in it. You can’t throw it out because you’ll feel regret and lose mementos. Really? How do you know if you won’t let it go? Is feeling a theoretical twinge of regret at some point worth the loss of physical space? It’s not as if the fond memories will be erased from your brain. 


Detachment can require a leap of faith, and that means uncertainty - you can’t even predict what will come from detaching. 

Four: Peace Always.

You don’t fight for detachment. We don’t angrily grab it for ourselves and declare freedom. You don’t force a young adult to go to a specific college or break up with a partner so they can’t break up with you first. This isn’t detachment, it’s a fear response. 


As a mindfulness practice, detachment is realized day by day. That’s tough when your pride is in the mix. However, it’s far more empowering to let go. You’ll know that you’ll be more than able to withstand any negative outcomes in the future - if they even happen, of course.


What has been the hardest thing for you to let go of? Share in the comments below, and come back next week. 


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