8. Cultivate Detachment and Non-Identification (1)

© Infrakshun

“We live in a society where detachment is almost essential.”

— Philip K. Dick

Reading time: 15 – 18 mins

The quote above highlights a growing shift in the consciousness of Western populations – if not the globe – namely, the detachment and separation from our political system to offer any kind of resolution to domestic and international problems. The defeat of the remain camp in the Brexit exit poll to the election of Donald Trump are both symptoms of disillusionment with establishment politics. They represent a negative detachment of progressive politics not from rejecting the conservative “other,” but from an attachment to a dream of what ought to be, thus in direct oppostion to objective reality.

As Gilad Atzmon notes in his recent book Being in Time: A Post Political Manifesto (2016):

The Post-Political condition is an era defined by a complete failure of politics (Left, Right and Centre) and ‘Grand Ideological Narratives.’ Liberal Democracy, Marxism, communism, capitalism, and free markets are all empty, hollow signifiers as far as contemporary reality is concerned.

Total detachment describes the current relationship between ‘the political’ and ‘the human.’ We Westerners are becoming keenly aware that we have been reduced to consumers. The present role of ‘the political’ is to facilitate consumption. Our elected politicians are subservient to oligarchs, major market forces, big monopolies, corporations, conglomerates, banks and some sinister lobbies.

Liberal Democracy, that unique moment of mutual exchange between humans and the political, has failed to sustain itself. [1]

In the context of politics and culture, non-identification is essential if we are to separate from belief and move toward constructive solutions. Not to play the game of identity politics is to reject the idea that just because there is disagreement with a certain ideology does not mean prejudice against a race, sexuality, gender or religion. Identitarians would have us all categorised into rigid groups of tribal affiliations according to opinions, feelings and surface image rather than the logic and plausibility of the idea itself. Since identity is enmeshed in ideology and persona, to oppose an ideologue is to launch a personal attack. A specific defence mechanism is thus created to maintain this triad.

Examples of this would be:

  • Being white and male you are privileged and inherently racist
  • If you vote for Trump you are sexist, misogynist and a white supremacist Nazi.
  • Everyone knows there is a rape culture and if you deny it you support it.
  • If you disagree with pre-school education on transgender sexuality means you are transphobic
  • Criticising Islamic extremism means you are “Islamophobic”.
  • Criticising Israel’s human rights record against Palestinians means you are anti-Semitic
  • If you stand against police brutality you support radical anarchists like antifa
  • Institutionalised racism exists and police target black people as a result.
  • All those who criticise the science of human-global warming are “climate deniers”.
  • Being pro-Brexit and skeptical of the EU means you are xenophobic and right wing

Such identitarianism is spellbound by image and feeling rather than reason an logic. There is no room for nuance or complexity. With identify politics, radical feminism and social justice groupings, group identity and its beliefs take precedence over individual belief and autonomy. Any attack against the group is an attack against personal identity, the latter of which the individual give ups to further group cohesion. The ability to discriminate and critique based on reality rather than personal sensibility is lost. As such, it is a collective defence mechanism called “splitting” which we will look at later on.

To identify with someone’s pain or difficulties is to engage empathy. But when we identify with the ideology and belief – regardless of good intentions –  we limit our ability to see outside that ideology. It is then that empathy becomes politicised and distorted toward power and projection fuelled by the momentum of the group itself.

We now have Left and Right polarised more than ever, both offering respectively “illusion and insomnia”, and a “crude collision between fantasy and the concrete.” The New Left Identitarian politics is a tragic ponerised version of what the left-liberal vision used to represent and very instructive that identification is now an end in itself and its more radical social justice ideologues. The Left’s utopian dream of impossible equality of gender and outcome is now nightmarish totalitarianism in the making. Instead of a grassroots movement to address the common man the Left now dances to the tune of the Establishment and Deep State. Anti-war and the arts have all but become commoditised as good consumers with barely a whimper of protest where it counts. Free speech is the casualty. And when tech giants have a monopoly on information and data they can easily control what we see and how we think.

Saudi Arabia beheads a youth? Well …Western governments fighting alongside al-Qaeda to oust Assad and gain the country’s resources? Pardon? Paedophilia rings in power? Er …

What about protesting Trump as mysoginist?

I’m with you comrade! Man the barricades! Down with white supremacy and capitalism!

The Right is no better. It often delights in the Left-liberal deformity and in doing so, encourages radical elements in its ranks to come out from the shadows. Meantime, it turns a blind eye to the cost of capitalist excess/success and aligns itself with religious and Zionist fundamentalism.

Left and Right are dead precisely because they are forms of identification.

Is it any wonder that the ordinary man and woman are seeking to detach from such insanity?

Mustafa Kücük – v. Gruenewaldt from Pixabay | Infrakshun

If there are many people who have called out this political and cultural bankruptcy, what is the reason for their detachment?

Hatred of “the other”? Projected anger? Self-preservation? An emotional numbness voluntarily chosen to cope with stultifying mediocrity and hopelessness? Or is it a conscious strategy to separate from anything that proves to be an obstacle to self-growth?

The latter may be an infinitesimal demographic or larger than we realise. One thing is for sure, there is a groundswell of ordinary people who are beginning to move away from conventional politics and the Left-Right divide. What exactly they are moving toward however, is an unknown and therefore equally deserving of caution. The instinct of the crowd is ever malleable and in a vacuum we’d better be sure we can discriminate between forces that would exploit a new awareness and those that would help us to grow.

Though there may not be a collective and conscious quest for the kind of self-growth we have been exploring in this series, populations are slowly picking up on the fact that something is rotten in the (World) State, and they want nothing to do with it. In that sense, a partial detachment and non-identification may well be making a return, albeit in simplistic form.

As to our part, it all depends on the knowledge one has about the past, our culture and how our experiences and personalities interact with them in the present.  We can decide to positively detach and resist identification because we know the alternative is to succumb to Official Culture’s dictates rather than our own unique, shared experience. We reject doctrinaire, subjective impositions of Establishment liberalism and the ultra capitalist-conservative mantra of free-market consumption because there may be a simple reality that transcends both.

A man is intellectual in proportion as he can make an object of every sensation, perception and intuition; so long as he has no engagement in any thought or feeling which can hinder him from looking at it as somewhat foreign. … Indeed, this is the measure of all intellectual power among men, the power to complete this detachment.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Separation from Assimilation

To cultivate healthy detachment and non-identification is perhaps the most difficult thing to accomplish because they are so much a part of the “normal” life of man. And from the perspective of self-development, it is only when we understand why it is necessary that we realise just how hard it is to achieve. The ability to detach ourselves from the many things that do us harm features as a wise virtue in most Western and Eastern religions and philosophies including Bahá’í, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Stoicism, and Taoism.

In the esoteric or philosophical sense, detachment is not cold indifference or the suppression of natural emotional responses. It is a way to distance ourselves from those needs and desires which can produce disharmony. The cultivation of detachment is an ability which helps us to make decisions based on objective reality rather than emotion-infused subjective reactions. The ability to detach from our obsession with buying and accumulating stuff in our houses and our minds is another way to declutter, to be free from desire which can so easily slip into self-gratification to ease dissatisfaction. Thus it becomes just another tool in a service-to-self world.

When we separate from the harmful (and that can be anything that takes us away from the Way/The Work or simple attempts to be all we can be) then we send a signal to the world at large that a sovereign soul is being grown and it will resist assimilation by the forces of robopathic, psychopathic and tribal authoritarianism.

And of course, you can’t expect that to be a walk in the park.

Becoming emotionally detached due to unresolved issues is not the way to go. We are all made up of a mass of barriers and boundaries which have been erected to protect ourselves in order to keep the pain, rage, guilt, shame – fill in the blank –  at bay. Defence mechanisms and their buffers serve to keep these issues vitalised barring our way to a more harmonious life. And since we live in a world of addiction, the pleasure train becomes the only way to travel through life. While pleasure and reward drive that train, trust, faith and truth are often left behind in the dust. Meanwhile, all the passengers are made of cynicism, anxiety and self-esteem issues. That means it’s hard to trust anyone or get close. We feel safe by being impersonal, where emotional investment is seldom taken. Cultivating emotional self-reliance is great. Doing it to avoid hurt can only heighten the essential vulnerability that lurks under the surface.

To detach from something or someone – we separate from it. But not through fear. We do so in order to attain an objective review of what we are experiencing and to see with clarity. (Indeed, this is part of the principle of SEE.) The first stage is to recognise that we are attached and identified with the object in question. The second stage is to judge if this attachment is healthy or unhealthy.

Put simply, detachment is not taking everything so personally. I used to tell myself this little dictum when I slipped into oversensitivity about someone or something: “The Universe doesn’t care about your imagined slights and covert insults. People aren’t minor planets orbiting your special sphere. Life is bigger than your fragile ego. FOCUS. Detach, move on. You’ll be dead in a blink of a cosmic eye and you’re wasting energy on THIS? You aren’t so important…

Along with an inner smile, that usually helped …For a while. But if it were that easy we’d all be walking around with soppy smiles and a Buddha-like presence.

Detachment allows us to see the Big Picture and to not be led astray by the trivial and the transient. The resentment which can build up from unfulfilled desires can inject all kinds of chaotic emotions into everyday experiences. Perceived personal slights, real or imagined and the neglected “stuff” within us all require some form of detachment so that we do not become their slave.

This capacity is not about rejecting external things nor those positive qualities within us. That way lies an emotional desert and undue acetism. Detachment that is borne from too much focus on the intellect or lofty visions of “spiritual purity” means that qualities of conscience such as empathy, compassion and humour tend to wither and die. We don’t need to use detachment to disengage from life or as a ruse to escape responsibility but to see clearly what helps us grow and what keeps us stuck in negative loops.

Similarly, grief makes us temporarily detached from life as we gain the energy to expand once more from the shock of losing a loved one. Yet, if this process of healing switches us off from life, we might as well be dead too. As psychologist Eric Fromm reminds us: “To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness”.

And happiness discovered from the ashes of suffering is the only happiness which endures.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

By letting it go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try the world is beyond the winning.

— Lao Tzu

The need for detachment comes about from identifying too much with an event, a person, belief or circumstance. Whatever could potentially trip that reaction switch and get us all riled up because something or someone has breached our defences or offended us in some way. If we can learn to observe the signposts leading up to these these tailspins of reaction, be it the mother-in-law pushing our buttons, the boss at work belittling your efforts, or even lying awake at night stressing about the world’s problems – we’ll find we have more energy to reduce their effects and their long term presence.

The family often provides the best chance to exercise detachment and non-identification. It can be a veritable battleground of growth opportunities. But If we jump in thinking we can just stop it all by force of will over a few weeks, we underestimate the power of our unconscious programs and it may turn out to be a case of putting the cart before the horse. Suppression and repression will be the result and serve to exacerbate the very things we seek to transform. So, heal find out how you tick, what needs healing as well as what your strengths are. As with all the 31 suggestions this is a long-term process which is necessarily slow.

If we can learn to be attentive to certain triggers which alter our equilibrium and induce excess stress then we can begin to move toward greater harmony. Above all, detachment and non-identification mean we don’t take things so personally and see slights and digs at every juncture. If we do, then it denotes a fragile ego masking some shadows which need addressing.

How often do you slip into criticising others as a result of tension and dissatisfaction? This can be unconsciously blended with all kinds of justifications when the real reason is often to vent, which becomes second nature. Step by step however, we can begin to employ these new ways of navigating and observing the effects we have on others. We’ll find over time, we become less stressed about the small stuff and gravitate toward providing solutions to things that really need our help. Before long, because your own desires are not ignored but re-channelled, you give assistance when needed or do a good job even if it’s mundane because it’s the right thing to do; the simplicity of giving and receiving is a reward in itself, without any thought of success or failure. As a passage from the Bhagavad Gita tells us: “Those whose consciousness is unified abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peace. But those whose desires are fragmented, who are selfishly attached to the results of their work, are bound in everything they do.” And selfish desire, the need to possess and anticipate a constant “reward” strengthens a psychic prison within which we limit our choices and sadly attract the very things we try to avoid.

Striving for detachment means we take a more bird’s-eye view, remaining open to viewpoints that are opposed to our own. Our defence mechanisms usually make this a very difficult proposition because once we react it’s almost impossible to stop that response from running until the energy is all used up. We might feel better temporarily yet we’ll need more and more energy next time our reactions are triggered again. This is a drain for everyone else but makes the ego feel better and reinforces our buffers.

When we over-identify with something we lose objectivity and become prone to errors of judgement. It also permits manipulation from others, usually without us knowing. Cultivating even partial detachment helps to keep that tendency to a minimum and strange though it may seem, creates the space for love. Not a sentimental kind of pseudo-love to mask our hunger for more energy, but the kind that recognises we are all in this together; that human being err and we desperately want to be understood and encouraged. We detach from the personal, the centralisation of our own existence based on what we perceive we lack, towards a de-personalisation and de-centralisation which emphasizes what we already have and what we could give. This is naturally attractive and resonates toward an intrinsic commonality in response to the unknown.

When we really see attachments and identifications in ourselves we become sensitised to how common it is in others’ daily interactions, from office gossip to fragile friendships always on the lookout for a salacious “snack” to top up our lower centres and their declining energy levels. We don’t have to join in, even if the pressure from those social currents is strong.

Eknath Easwaran (courtesy of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation)

The late Indian spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran saw the assignment of blame and judgement as an opportunity for growth on the part of the self-observer. He equated a person who mastered a healthy detachment as a loving individual who would: “… never allow relationships to degenerate to stimulus and response.” He then suggested a simple test: “Even if you are angry with me, can I stay calm and loving with you and help you overcome your anger? If you persist in disliking me, can I continue to like you? For it is when you dislike me that I have all the more reason to be loyal to you, to show you what loyalty really means.” [2]

Healing our emotions and getting us into a semblance of psychological health requires this depersonalisation and a parallel reduction of dependence on all manner of normalised social addictions. We have to develop our will and endurance which necessarily encompasses Self-Control and Self-Respect. When you begin to detach from unnecessary emotional chaos you eventually retain enough energy to justify those qualities and manifest integrity. Temptations to fritter it away in useless confrontation, frustration and worry over trivial matters, or from obstacles beyond our control will meet all of us throughout the course of our week. Over time, as detachment becomes a positive trait, people will warm to your capacity to be calm in the face of provocation or to keep a level head in times of stress. Your integrity will grow as a property of integration.

Detachment and non-identification are very close partners as they work together to reduce psychic chaos and limit energy drains in thought, speech and action. Monitor the propensity to over-identify then you naturally decrease unhealthy attachments. This is particularly true because we live in a culture where being “offended” and victimised has become normalised; a virtual industry fuelled by info-tainment and ideology alike.

Becoming attached to the process of introspection is also a danger. We can be lost in our self-reflection so that we end up seeing everything from the perspective of our own “self-development” to the detriment of practical realities. We can be caught up in endless circular thoughts and addicted to the habit. In other words, we “get off” on the whole process when it should be freeing us. Don’t underestimate how hard it is to make sure you are not just replacing one crutch with another, thereby avoiding careful self-observation. The more intelligent you are, the more likely it is you’ll justify and rationalise such a danger. (Never underestimate the powers of self-deception). An exaggerated detachment is one of the indicators of spiritual bypassing and conforms much too often to those with a powerful intellect fully identified with monstrous self-importance.

In the same way, to be fully identified with our “passion” is not such a wonderful thing, despite its romantic press. To be enthusiastic and excited over one’s aim is obviously great. Our passion for life; our hobbies, a partner, family, whatever it is that gives meaning, purpose and a focus for love is something to celebrated, insofar as it is nourishing and constructive. If that passion causes problems and “consumes” everything with which it comes into contact…It becomes a self-serving and a drain on others. Taking a distance and stepping back ensures that such joyous enthusiasm is regulated and finely-tuned. Unregulated passion is an extension of the “passion cycle” or “Cupid’s poison” as elaborated by Marnia Robinson. Self-regulation is organised sexual energy which can either fuel depletion or conservation and disbursement.

to identify and remain unattached to forms and images, people and stimulants is very, very difficult as Gurdjieff reminds us:

‘Identification’ is so common a quality that for purposes of observation it is difficult to separate it from everything else. Man is always in a state of identification, only the object of identification changes. […] “A man identifies with a small problem which confronts him and he completely forgets the great aims with which he began his work. He identifies with one thought and forgets other thoughts; he is identified with one feeling, with one mood, and forgets his own wider thoughts, emotions, and moods. In work on themselves people are so much identified with separate aims that they fail to see the wood for the trees. Two or three trees nearest to them represent for them the whole wood.

“‘Identifying’ is one of our most terrible foes because it penetrates everywhere and deceives a man at the moment when it seems to him that he is struggling with it. It is especially difficult to free oneself from identifying because a man naturally becomes more easily identified with the things that interest him most, to which he gives his time, his work, and his attention. In order to free himself from identifying a man must be constantly on guard and be merciless with himself, that is, he must not be afraid of seeing all the subtle and hidden forms which identifying takes. “It is necessary to see and to study identifying to its very roots in oneself. The difficulty of struggling with identifying is still further increased by the fact that when people observe it in themselves they consider it a very good trait and call it ‘enthusiasm,’ ‘zeal,’ ‘passion,’ ‘spontaneity,’ ‘inspiration,’ and names of that kind, and they consider that only in a state of identifying can a man really produce good work, no matter in what sphere. In reality of course this is illusion. Man cannot do anything sensible when he is in a state of identifying. [3]

The Spinning wheel of Identification: Wheeeeeeeeeee! | Image by MoreLight from Pixabay

“Freedom is first of all freedom from identification.”

— G.I. Gurdjieff


To detach and separate from defence mechanisms and their fall-out from ourselves or others, we must include non-identification. When we identify with something or someone we tend to forget everything else and become consumed by a subjective world. All our thoughts, desires and anticipations catch our attention. So much so, that we find it almost impossible to observe this identification separate from anything else. Once we can, we begin to move towards less automatism and more self-awareness.

We move on to the next object through which we identify because it appeals to our self-importance propped up by our beliefs and sense of well-being. Identification is a human constant that keeps us on the funfair ride of illusory satisfaction. Except it’s an emotional prison with defensive bars blocking our ability to SEE. When we are fully identified, we are by default, reinforcing the idea that we are only the body or the body’s processes – anything other than Attention. (See No.9 cultivate Attention and Discernment).

If it matches our beliefs and self-protecting armour then any external stimulus will do, globbing on to those “bars” and guilding our subjective awareness with more useless detritus. And we back to “passion” again. Passion is the primary conduit for the candy-floss of preoccupation and “busyness” and satiates the ego at the cost of nourishing the soul. Enthusiasm and passion can be just as automatic and mechanical as any emotional reaction triggered by our “programs” (an habitual pattern of thought or association or behaviour). Enthusiasm is only conducive to self-development if they don’t strengthen our buffers, and therefore, act as a paint-stripper for our awareness and free-will.

How identified and attached we are to our surroundings and relatiionships will determine how dependent we are on externals instead of inner truth. This lack of attention will determine our attitude and mood.

In the Richard Wilhelm’s translation of I Ching or Book of Changes line 3 from Hexagram 61 Inner Truth warns about this very dependence:

‘He finds a comrade.
Now he beats the drum, now he stops.
Now he sobs, now he sings.’

“Here the source of a man’s strength lies not in himself but in his relation to
other people. No matter how close to them he may be, if his center of gravity
depends on them, he is inevitably tossed to and fro between joy and sorrow.”

In Peter Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous (1949) he relates the teachings of his own view and his teacher, George Gurdjieff’s on identification:

Man is always in a state of identification, only the object of identification changes. “A man identifies with a small problem which confronts him and he completely forgets the great aims with which he began his work. He identifies with one thought and forgets other thoughts; he is identified with one feeling, with one mood, and forgets his own wider thoughts, emotions, and moods. In work on themselves people are so much identified with separate aims that they fail to see the wood for the trees. Two or three trees nearest to them represent for them the whole wood.

“‘Identifying’ is one of our most terrible foes because it penetrates everywhere and deceives a man at the moment when it seems to him that he is struggling with it. It is especially difficult to free oneself from identifying because a man naturally becomes more easily identified with the things that interest him most, to which he gives his time, his work, and his attention. In order to free himself from identifying a man must be constantly on guard and be merciless with himself, that is, he must not be afraid of seeing all the subtle and hidden forms which identifying takes. [4]

When we release ourselves from identification we are better able to live in the present and less prone to a shifting state of mental preoccupation (See “inner considering”) a desire for the ego/Predator’s Mind to fix on anything and anyone in order to retain automatism and mechanical behaviour. When we are locked into such a state the 4th Way technique known as “self-remembering” brings us back to the present and potentially, ourselves. We become aware of our body, emotions and thought processes whilst paying attention to an external object or activity. Not so easy, but it comes with practice.

“Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.”

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Through identification and attachment, we cannot remember who we really are. Our attention is divided, wholly caught in the trap of energy loss from a distracting activity or focus. Self-remembering allows us to divide attention by becoming aware that we have a Higher Self or true “I” within us and another Lower “I” of the unregulated ego that demands all our energy of attention.

As long as we are completely identified with the personality and the desires which give rise to all kinds of activities and foci in the external world, we are lost to our authentic self. Once we are able to recognise these two “I”s, we are then presented with a choice via our conscience, which one will receive our attention. The development of an “I” that is the best in ourselves will then become more constant in direct proportion to how much attention is focused upon it, and the qualities it contains within it.

To begin the process of self-remembering we need to be able to focus our attention by a deliberate act of will. Our objective is to bring our fragmented attention back to a unified whole so that we are able to see, feel, hear, taste and touch through an expanded awareness. When we remember our body/instincts, feelings/emotions and intellectual knowledge this assists in their integration and reflects a recognition and balancing of the three brain system. American neuroscientist Paul MacLean formulated the ‘Triune Brain’ model which describes it well:

  1. Reptilian or Primal Brain (Basal Ganglia)
  2. Paleomammalian or Emotional Brain (Limbic System)
  3. Neomammalian or Rational Brain (Neocortex)

The Parable of the Horse, Coach and Driver as presented by Gurdjieff through Ouspensky and then Mouravieff is a good description of how the triune brain and the centres work. Gurdijieff constantly stressed the fact as he saw it, that we were three-brained beings and that those otherwise separated functions could be developed so that they worked in unison for the good of the whole system. Self-remembering is one tool that assists that process.

The practice of self observation asks us to centre ourselves and observe without interfering in any way – no judgement and no mental suppositions about what may or not be occurring. What we discover can shock us however as we will come into contact with more darkness and deformations than any notions of light. This is the horror of seeing ourselves as we really are just as we must see the outside world as it really is.

This is not about employing an effort to change through gritted teeth and sweaty brow. This is a road to stasis and re-entrenchment of the ego and Predator’s Mind. Change comes about from a slow, incremental and patient accumulation of understanding. This comes from observation which by a process of attrition reduces our habitual reliance on mechanical reaction, drama and energy capture. We therefore, become more detached, non-identified and objective. When we combine the right desire (emotional centre) and motivation/intention (intellectual centre) and divert the forces of our instincts and body to channel will and attention toward an AIM then our conscience begins to be activated.

Self-remembering is the tool of self-observation. One might say this is a form of meditation which it is, but it has a specific aim and formula in mind.

Here is how Peter Ouspensky described his experience of self-remembering:

When I observe something, my attention is directed towards what I observe—a line with one arrowhead: I —————————————> the observed phenomenon. When at the same time, I try to remember myself, my attention is directed both towards the object observed and towards myself. A second arrowhead appears on the line: I <—————————————> the observed phenomenon.

Having defined this I saw that the problem consisted in directing attention on oneself without weakening or obliterating the attention directed on something else. Moreover this “something else” could as well be within me as outside me. The very first attempts at such a division of attention showed me its possibility. At the same time I saw two things clearly. In the first place I saw that self-remembering resulting from this method had nothing in common with “self-feeling,” or “self-analysis.” It was a new and very interesting state with a strangely familiar flavor. And secondly I realized that moments of self-remembering do occur in life, although rarely. Only the deliberate production of these moments created the sensation of novelty. Actually I had been familiar with them from early childhood. [5]

When we develop a wider field of awareness through our attention we become less and less prone to distraction and the automated response of identification that comes from being absorbed by an unfolding experience. This attention helps us build a seat of consciousness or magnetic centre which is an antidote against unconscious living. A presence is built within each of the brain/centres which helps to lessen the trance of automatism which have congealed all the little “I”s or ego states into separate autonomic forces, energising emotional reactions and mechanical thinking.

A deliberate focus on sensing, looking and listening – a three way attention is not easy! it requires a lot of practice. We usually forget ourselves within a few seconds of self-remembering exercises. We can self-remember as we eat, open the car door, catch a bus or lie in bed. *

It is through self-observation of our inner processes and what is going on in the external world that refines our overall awareness – without identification. We observe things as they happen, without identification from instant judgement or mini-fantasies of assumption. By being detached we are better able to critically evaluate and give freedom to intuition – intellect and emotions working together. We are more likely to engage the heart rather than the head fuelled by selfish desire and thwarted sexual energy. We actually develop more freedom by stepping back in this way.

For example, one can recognise there is resentment bubbling up within, from an imagined snarky comment or triggered memory drawn from our lack of self-worth or similar. But we need not identify with the resentment by thinking/voicing: “I AM resentful,” but begin to detach from that feeling with “there is resentment.” We can observe these feelings and thoughts as a spiritual scientist and learn to let them go. In mindfulness, this is called “Noting” as if we are jotting down our observations in an internal notebook then putting it away. All those notes are there but not imbued with the emotional ‘electricity’ of memory, programs and associations burned into the brain. These are “notes” which will become your “wisdom” for the future.

When we do not identify we are able to detach. This means the outcome doesn’t displace the process and our open feedback system. We are open to the unpredictability of the object/event/person in question. When we reduce our need to interfere, possess or control, we naturally make it less likely that we are prey to the many emotional and intellectual traps within ourselves and from others. That doesn’t mean we pass the buck or abdicate responsibility. It allows us to be more objective by refusing to run our programs which are inevitably switched on by attachment and identification. We are able to bring into focus a full field of choices.

At this stage, you’ll probably see that self-remembering and being present (See No.18) is almost a form of daily meditation (See No.24) that merges with our daily life. With practice, this higher “I” becomes an outpost of the growth of the soul/conscience and slowly begins to displace the once dominant needs of the ego/Predator’s Mind. There’ll still be there of course, but their influence is decreased because their role in teaching us is understood.

Eventually, even when shocks and tribulations arrive, this “I” remains constant and seated within a new “magnetic centre“. It is not captured by identification toward anyone or anything. Yet, we remain open, receptive to creative influence, compassionate and moved to be of service to others, since this is the dynamic most suited to maintaining The Way and conscious evolution. *

“Nothing is rarer than giving no importance to things that have none.”

— Paul Valéry


If the above seems a bit complicated, there is a simpler version which might act as a primer for remembering ourselves developed by psychologist Tara Brach called RAIN an abbreviation for:

  1. Recognize what is going on
  2. Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
  3. Investigate with kindness
  4. Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience. [6]

Recognition of how unregulated emotion can rule us is necessary for detachment and non-identification. When we consciously acknowledge that we are usually the architect of our own difficulties we are immediately on the road to solving them. The first stage is recognition.

Once we have recognised and seen these habits and reactions borne from unresolved programs and conditioning, we can allow it to be there in order to observe it without judgement. When you are able to initiate this break, this pause, you are potentially breaking the chain of endless emotional and mental thought loops which manifest harmful behaviour over time. You create the space for new energy to replace them. By ignoring these issues because they are too painful, and/or requires too much effort to change, we only cast them deeper into the unconscious strengthening the unintegrated shadows of the psyche. Then we continue to blame/project those unpleasant feelings and thoughts onto people and events.

When we allow, we do not resist or rationalise, nor cover up. We observe and gain insight. Why did I react that way? Why do I hate her so much? What is it that triggers those feelings? Where does this guilt come from? Why do I feel so small in his presence? Our loss of self-control, our need to over-complication, to criticise and to dramatise our neurotic fears and prejudices are oddly teaching us, urging us to investigate our own frailties. But we cannot do that until we recognise and create the space, stop for a moment and sit with those feelings in order that we observe and note any insights. We will discover that they will diminish if we do not fuel them.

With more focused attention, we can conduct an investigation into our inner landscape and its changeable ‘weather’ patterns. When you are motivated to understand because you’ve had enough suffering, then recognition spurs investigation to find the truth. Deep questioning from a quiet space may produce profound results. Why do I really believe what I do? Did I recover from the trauma of the past? Has it coloured the way I view people and family? Why do I always feel like a victim? How can I be more assertive? How can I be less aggressive? Why can’t I ever say “sorry”? What is it that caused this self-hatred?

Investigation can be raw and painful. And depending on your circumstances, everyone needs a helping hand to venture into the overgrown jungle of the psyche. If you hack wildly into the greenery it’s going to be a haphazard affair – you might even slash at something you didn’t intend to, and cause yourself harm. So, gain some trusted support from friends and/or recommended therapists and go gently in your investigations. As Brach mentions, use self-compassion and kindness but move forward nonetheless.

Likewise, when we begin to recognise, allow and investigate our own issues, (self-observation, detachment, non-identification) remember that most of us are struggling to understand (or deny) the roots of similar challenges. So, be compassionate but also vigilant. Such investigations often signal a reciprocal response predicated on a lack of energy or a resonance. Defend your own inner growth against contamination from people and events, but also be receptive to those seeking assistance, if they ask.

Finally, when those three steps are in motion, we might find what Brach calls a “Natural loving awareness” which arrives from non-identification. We begin to access who we really are by not identifying with all the emotional chaos that is brought up. What’s more, we better understand what makes so many of us repeatedly suffer the same torments and the inability to let go. Compassion and empathy arrive.

Working on re-calibrating our system to be a stronger, disciplined and a more open and healthy human being takes time. But the awareness delivered to us from adopting self-remembering and RAIN is a product of energy conservation and simplifying our view of ourselves and the world. In effect, this is a formula for meditation on the go, that becomes a natural part of our repertoire for self-development and Being.

In order to do justice to RAIN and self-remembering, to detach and disidentify from imprisoning thoughts and emotions, we need to understand the mechanics of identification a little more clearly. This is what we’ll cover in the next post.


* = For more on ways to practice and develop self-remembering I recommend Chapter 18 of Charles T. Tart’s Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential (2017).


[1] p.22; Atzmon, Gilad; Being In Time: A Post-Political Manifesto (2016) Published by Skyscraper books.
[2] The Art of Detachment by Eknath Easwaran, published in Blue Mountain, A Journal for Spiritual Living, published by the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and Nilgiri Press, reprinted by permission of Nilgiri Press, P. O. Box 256, Tomales, Ca  94971, www.easwaran.org.
[3]In Search of The Miraculous Kindle Edition, Location 3353 – 3367
[4] Ibid.
Location 3347-3374
[5] Ibid. Location 2683 – 2700
[6] ‘Feeling Overwhelmed? Remember “RAIN” – Four steps to stop being so hard on ourselves’ By Tara Brach, http://www.mindful.org February 7, 2019 | http://www.mindful.org/tara-brach-rain-mindfulness-practice/

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