Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Contentment, Detachment and Western Ambition, Do They Mix?

Published on August 7, 2011 by   ·   No Comments


Photo: Tom Thai

In the West, we are born and raised to believe in Capitalism, ambition, climbing the ladder, setting goals, and getting ahead. The game is to study hard, get a good job, make more money, and buy a big house. And all of that equals a good life and “happiness.”

So what if your life doesn’t look like that at all? Are you still successful – by Western terms? What defines success?

In the West, money and tangible things are often indicative of happiness. Right or wrong, this is just how it is. And if you’re not going somewhere, you’re floating, which is a negative thing in Western culture. ‘Floaters’ are often associated with homeless people, people stuck in dead-end jobs, stoner college kids, and the like. None of us are raised by our parents to believe that growing up to be a floater is a good idea.

In the Yogic Tradition (and many other Eastern philosophy systems), the concepts of contentment and detachment are forever at the forefront of the discussion. Yoga teachers never stop talking about contentment and detachment without much explanation of what that really looks like in an experiential way. Many of my students have even associated detachment with apathy, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Apathy is not detachment. Constant bliss is also not contentment. No one is blissfully happy every single day of their lives – we all have terrible days and moments where the sky is falling, but according to Yogic Tradition, we can be content in those terrible moments once we detach from our idea of what the future and the world should look like to us.

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