The Law of Detachment
“‘The sixth spiritual law of success is the Law of Detachment, which reveals a great paradox of life.” I read aloud sitting up in bed. “In order to acquire something in this world, you have to relinquish your attachment to it. This doesn’t mean you give up the intention to fulfill your desire — you simply give up your attachment to the outcome.”
“It sounds like us,” Mike says, leaning over to kiss me on the cheek.
I continue reading,‘“Being open to what is happening rather than trying to control how things unfold, you experience the excitement, adventure, exhilaration, and mystery of life.”’ We both nod and laugh.
The “mystery of life” has had a palpable presence throughout the past months. It’s somehow taken me to this moment in a village outside of Belfast reading Deepak Chopra and David Simon’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga next to a guy I met five months ago. If that were the whole story, that would be good enough, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’ve been reading along, you have heard Mike’s name before (many times). He is a tall, dark, and beardy Northern Irishman. We met in Portugal, spending eight days overlapping at surf camp. One month later, I found myself in Ireland visiting his home and taking a road trip to the western coast of the “South” (as in Ireland, not Northern Ireland). And during that week, now four months ago, the plot thickened considerably – we fell for each other. If I hadn’t lined up a visit with a friend directly after my time in Ireland, I very well might have just stayed.
I still remember standing at the curb of the Dublin Airport and saying goodbye to Mike, not knowing if I’d ever see him again. I was about to continue through Europe for another few weeks and, from there, I had a one-way ticket to Bangkok to begin the Southeast Asia chapter of my journey. After however long I spent there, I had no idea where I would go. Australia? New Zealand? Back to the USA? That’s the thing about dating someone from a different country… you can’t assume you’ll ever see each other again. Nothing is guaranteed. “If it’s meant to be, it will be,” Mike said, hugging me goodbye. And he wasn’t trying to blow me off or anything, he meant it. At that point, I didn’t know what to do with my feelings, but I got on my plane and went on my way.
I must admit, I’ve never dated without any agenda at all. It seems like there’s always some secret desire or unsaid thing one person is holding onto or, probably more often, both are. With Mike though, we truly had no attachment to the outcome of us, both up until my visit and afterwards. It seems impossible, now that I look back on it, but neither one of us was ready to commit to the other because, ultimately, that meant we’d be committing to moving to a different continent for someone we had only spent 13 days in person with. It also meant compromising my trip, which neither of us was willing to do.
Unsurprisingly, the next months in Asia were much more intense, more difficult, more alone than any of my time in Europe. It truly felt like the first 85 days of my trip were just preparation for the second – the real test. Through this whole time, I had Mike in my head – not as a distraction, but as a support. We kept in touch loosely but meaningfully: a quick message once a day and a Skype call once a week. I had even less inclination to go out partying and was much more focused on learning some harder, vaguer, lonelier lessons.
The contact we did have was incredibly significant to me. Because of him, I felt strong, I felt understood, I felt loved. All the time. I had someone who connected with what I was doing and helped me keep focused when I lost my vision of it. I had someone who was encouraging of change. I had someone with no agenda or ego, who was happy just to hear that I was having a good day. I had someone who saved my blog posts to read for when he missed me most. Yet, even with all this, he still allowed me to have complete independence.
We experienced some tough moments too. Like the time I went on a slightly risky outting and joked to “send out a search party if you don’t hear from me” then got detained with a Thai restaurant crew for five hours without sending him a word. There was that other time when I freaked out for not being able to communicate with him during a pivotal moment because I unknowingly went to an island without electricity or internet for three days. Or when I inexplicably cut one of our Skype calls short to run to the bathroom to vomit – the beginning of a lovely bout of food poisoning. In general, I had terrible internet for months on end – most calls dropped at least six times per hour (if we were able to get a strong enough signal to even see each other). The time difference kept getting bigger – I was 8 or 9 hours ahead of him, which meant I could sometimes reach him after midnight my time to catch him at the end of his work day. I worried that I was like a crazy whirlwind going through his life. He worried that I’d forget him or change in a way that left me disinterested in him. Pretty much everything was working against us.
The decision we made to move to Australia together was a slow progression, rooted in the openness that we left the Dublin Airport with. In the end, it all came down to two questions: if we don’t do this, will we always wonder about it? Yes. What if it doesn’t work out between us? We can always go to our respective homes again – back to old jobs, live with family, and get back on our feet. We will always be glad we decided to live in a foreign country for a year. And that was that.
When Mike told me that tying up his job was estimated to take several more months, I found cheap plane tickets and flew from Bali back to Northern Ireland at the end of January. And now that we’re actually together again, the basis of our relationship feels rock-solid. I believe this is because it was built slowly, with a whole lot of respect and care. It was built on an acceptance and genuine excitement for the other person to change, not fear and insecurity. It was built on passion and friendship, not convenience. It was built on the love of going out and having experiences together, not fancy dinners or lots of stuff. (And I must note, if he can fall for me when I’m wearing dirty clothes with no makeup and half an afro – my keratin treatment is now 6 months grown out…well that’s pretty damn great!)
The Law of Detachment has proven true for us. Our mutual disregard for the outcome is what allowed us to grow in the same direction instead of forcing something prematurely. It led us into the type of relationship neither one of us knew we could have – one that is productive, happy, healthy, and simple. It has kept us engaged in the present and able to make the best of each moment. It’s the reason that we both feel comfortable enough to share this exhilaration in a real time blog post, rather than waiting to see what happens and focusing on all the what-ifs. It’s made it clear that, even if this isn’t forever, we will both be happy we have done it at all. Relinquishing our attachment to the outcome has made us each more excited than ever to find out what the mystery of life has in store.