The Delight of Detachment

Every spiritual teacher intones the same three-word mantra, “Detach from outcomes.” Perhaps you’ve recoiled at the thought. After all, who wants to go through life detached, like a ghost walking through a vibrant, festive party filled with laughter and all the delights this world has to offer?

Ah, but detaching from outcomes does not mean that you are apathetic and unmotivated. Quite the contrary. Detachment means that you care deeply, but from an objective, enlightened perspective.

Enlightened detachment flows out of heightened awareness and the conviction that life is unfolding as it should. You are fully engaged in life while humbly acknowledging that a greater wisdom than your own is at work.

I wrote the following six lines to capture the joy I ceaselessly aspire to achieve.


Standing in a warm circle of divine light,
Observing the drama of life playing out around me,
I watch people react to the pleasures and pains of this world
As if they were daily rations slipped through a prison cell door.
I laugh, with the boundless joy that awareness brings.
Awake in the dream, I am drunk with love.


Phil is the author of Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, a comprehensive guide to living a spiritual life. Who will benefit from reading it?

Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to start one
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to
Anyone who is happy, or wants to be happier

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SiSe_fullcover_final.inddPhil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent people he interviewed, including Joan Borysenko, Deepak Chopra, geneticist Dr. Francis Collins, acclaimed sportswriter Frank Deford, Dr. Larry Dossey, Wayne Dyer, Dan Millman, Caroline Myss, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, Dr. Bernie Siegel, James Van Praagh, singer Billy Vera, Doreen Virtue, Neale Donald Walsch, and bassist Victor Wooten.

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Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories. Click here to read unsolicited testimonials from readers. Learn more by visiting the official Sixty Seconds website.

Sixty Seconds was one of three finalists in the General Interest/How-To category at the 12th annual Visionary Awards presented by COVR (Coalition of Visionary Resources) in Denver on June 27, 2009.

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4 Responses to “The Delight of Detachment”

  1. Kim Wencl Says:

    Great post Phil! Detaching from outcomes can be difficult, but also very necessary. I learned this lesson a few years ago when I spoke publicly for the first time about my journey through the death of my daughter. I was aprehensive for several reasons, most of which because I had gone through the first 50 years of my life saying that there were certain things that I would NEVER do … public speaking was number 1 on my list!

    However, as soon as I learned of my daughter’s death, I felt God’s hand on my shoulder leading me, gently guiding me on a path I never could have imagined. It turned out to be a transformational journey. I was so very grateful and I knew God was nudging me to speak out and share it. I wanted to share it as a way to help others, but also because I saw it as a tangible way to thank God for helping me through such a difficult time. But I did question my sanity on a number of occasions. Public speaking was one thing, but to share the intimate details of my daughter’s sudden and tragic death was another … what on earth was I thinking? But when I had those thoughts I knew I could change my mind if I wanted to and life would go on, God would still love me. But I felt compelled to step out in faith — to prepare myself the best I could, and then just go for it, knowing I would be completely supported in spirit.

    My talk went very well, I was able to speak with emotion, but without becoming emotional. When it was over I remember being in kind of a haze because I couldn’t believe how well it had gone and that inner feeling of accomplishment was a high like no other.

    A woman came up and introduced herself to me and proceeded to tell me that she had a brother that worked at the same company that I did. Did I know him she asked? Did I know him? Oh, yah, I knew him alright … he worked in the same department as I did … in fact he sat right next to me! Quite remarkable that in a company of about 1,000 people, not to mention the fact that I was speaking some 80 miles away from home, that someone with such a close connection to me would be in the audience.

    I didn’t show it, but on the inside I was horrified! I hadn’t shared much of my journey with my co-workers and now I was pretty sure this woman would go home, call her brother, and share all of the details of my talk. But I also reminded myself that this was a possibility I had to accept when I agreed to speak.

    I worried all weekend. I was sure that my co-worker would be at my desk first thing on Monday morning wanting to ask me a million questions. But, strangely, it never happened.
    I was very surprised. By early afternoon, I realized I was disappointed that he didn’t know about me. He walked into my office to get something out of the supply cabinet. He had his back to me and I remembered staring at him and mentally I asked myself, “should I tell him I met his sister?” “Why not!” So I said, “Troy, do you have a sister named Terese who lives up in the cities?”

    He turned around very quickly and I’ll never forget the look on his face — it was a mix of jumbled emotions — pain, anger, regret — and he said, “well, I do have a sister named Terese, but I have no idea if she lives in the cities or not. She moved to California eight years ago and my family and I have never heard from her since then.”

    I was completely dumbfounded and I proceeded to tell Troy that I had met his sister while speaking at a spiritual gathering the previous Friday evening. What did she look like he asked me, so I described her. Yup, that’s Terese he said.

    It didn’t take very long before I realized that giving my talk had nothing to do with me or my story, but it was about reuniting a long lost sister with her family. The circumstances were way too intricate to be considered just a coincidence.

    I told Troy that I go to the cities to attend this spiritual event quite often and I would look for Terese the next time I went. Did he have a message he wanted me to pass on to her? Just tell her to send me an email was his reply.

    So I went back to the forum for the next two months, but Terese was nowhere to be found. Once in a while Troy would stop in my office and ask me if I had seen Terese. No, I would say, but I promise to keep looking for her. I contacted everyone I knew in the cities to see if they knew Terese, but no one did. I was so disappointed but I was still hopeful that at some point a connection would be made.

    Two more months went by without a Terese sighting. Then one day Troy excitedly called me into his office — he thrust his phone into my hands and said, “listen to this!” It was a message from Terese and she wanted to make contact. I don’t know who was happier, Troy or me, and I was just sure that this would be the beginning of a wonderful reunion and reconcilation for this family. As it turned out Terese had gone for a reading with Kathryn Harwig. Kathryn and I knew each other well and she knew I had been searching for Terese. Kathryn passed on my message that she needed to connect with her brother.

    Several months later another brother of Troy and Terese’s passed away very suddenly at the young age of 50. Because Troy and Terese were now connected she was able to be a part of this family. However, the wonderful reunion and reconciliation that I had been so sure would happen … didn’t. In fact things became more contensious than ever between Terese and the rest of her siblings.

    I was so disappointed, and it took quite a while before I finally came to the realization that the outcome of this reunion was not my concern. I had been the conduit that provided the opportunity for the reunion and nothing more, I was not responsible for its outcome, that was up to Terese, Troy and the rest of the family. I had served my purpose and my job was done. I had to let go of the outcome even though it was not the fairy tale ending that I had so hoped it to be.

    It also showed me that when you feel led to do something, no matter how difficult or scary it seems, DO IT. God will be there to support you. Had I not spoken that night and shared my story this opportunity may never had happened and it felt so empowering when I finally could see how God had used me for good in this situation.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    That’s a good story, Kim. What’s even more impressive is that you saw the deeper meaning behind it. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  3. Deb Clemente Says:

    Wonderful story and lesson.Thank you Kim and Phil.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’re very welcome, Deb. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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