THE BLOG
03/05/2013 02:12 pm ET Updated May 05, 2013

Stepping Away: The Art of Self-Detachment

In a previous blog post I discussed how we could develop our self-vigilance and become more mindful of our external impacts -- and those niggling moments of negativity. In this final blog on the theme of "breaking the spell," I wish to discuss the simple technique of stepping away.

The technique of stepping away involves a person being able to detach from situations that they may find distracting, noisy, or confusing. What this suggests is that a person should be able to move inward for a short time when they feel it necessary to have some space away from tensions, or events that are antagonistic or disruptive to one's state. It is also about stepping away from using all of one's physical faculties, in order to conserve energy. For example, if you are sitting quietly, you don't need all your senses on full awareness. A person should learn when to not only step back from physical engagements, but also from emotional attachments and other involvements of the senses. This can be achieved at various moments throughout the day: five minutes here or there. It can be done on the metro, traveling to work, or on a bus. You don't need to detach to the point that you are not aware of external circumstances -- especially if you are on the street! It is about shifting your priorities of internal and external involvement.

Each of us can successfully insulate ourselves from unnecessary external noises and impacts by a reasonable and calm, organized withdrawal. There is no need to put cotton wool in the ears! This technique can be used whenever it is felt to be appropriate -- there is no hard-and-fast rule. As in everything, it depends upon each individual's circumstances and their state of being. It also allows for each person to create moments throughout the day for quiet reflection, moments to halt the flow of chatter. These can be small moments to be enjoyed, and that refresh one mentally and physically. In a sense, it is like taking a break, only that the break is often in the middle of everyday life. For example, you are traveling on the metro and the carriage is full of passengers all squeezed together with an armada of free newspapers. There is the screech of brakes, the hum of the train, the almost inaudible buzz of music seeping through earphones. The situation is both disturbing and stressful. Why should you always begin your day like this? So: Step back within yourself. Pull your focus inward, turn down some of your senses, recollect some fond memories, or recite some words to yourself. Don't allow the external impacts to affect you, or to enter into your inner space.

There is no need to leave the world behind: You still need to be relatively alert in case there is a madman loose in the carriage. You only need to step away from the bustle of external impacts and impressions. In effect, you are suspending a part of your social involvement. You are conserving your "self" and your energies. Involved in this is also a measured degree of restraint. Exercising restraint means imposing self-discipline in that you are avoiding conditioned reactions and sudden impulses. As in being vigilant, a person can, after observation, decide to refrain from exercising conditioned responses. Such impulses, judgments, preconceived attitudes are put to one side. This is a halting, or stepping away, from indulging in particular social terms of reference. A person is thus learning to restrain themselves at specific moments.

So stepping away infers exercising patience and restraint under the right conditions until a situation is better understood. The alternative may be an impulsive response based on layers of conditioning. So if you are not sure about how to act within a particular situation, pull back a little and show some personal restraint. By doing this you are in fact looking after yourself. You are learning how to detach from unnecessary conditioning, whether mental or emotional. This also helps a person to refrain from acts of pettiness and unwarranted attachment. Forms of pettiness and attachment are traits that quickly drain personal energies, and in the end become something that a person is unable to let go of.

To summarize, in a modern global world that increasingly seeks to distract our attention and awareness, these are small yet useful and significant techniques. After all, as we walk our individual paths we each need to learn about our innate powers that we possess to change the perspective of our lives. We are, after all, surrounded by a constant stream of impacts, influences, and events. We should never forget that we have at our disposal a great reservoir of human energy. We each must take personal responsibility to take care of our inner states of harmony and balance, in order to create such balance in our everyday lives.

For more by Kingsley Dennis, Ph.D., click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

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