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So, a little more about detachment, always remembering the importance of not becoming attached to our ideas about things. Difficult to do because once we have expressed an idea it becomes an opinion; opinions represent us and so we end up defending them as if they were ourselves. Detachment doesn’t mean rejection or cancelling  which is what is happening in much public conversation these days. Make a mistake and you’re ‘cancelled’. Detachment makes room for the return of forgiveness and second chances.
The mystics speak of the need to be detached from our images of ourselves which are usually made up of our judgments of the past and fantasies (called ‘predictions’ if you’re being paid for them) of the future. They say it helps to replace these ego-driven images with the imagination drawn from sacred scriptures. This is a problem for those who lack any direct connection with the original writings, at best knowing only second-hand commentaries. Sacred texts are sources, ever fresh springs of wisdom. Primarily, we need to drink from them ourselves: read them first and then feel how they are reading us as we absorb their purity. (If you can’t read, find someone who can). Our own interpretation of their meaning comes from personal reading (or listening) and the feeling of being touched by light. Then we may be helped by secondary sources.
But next mystics, like the great Flemish Jan van Ruusbroek, urge us to be detached even from these sacred words and images. The next stage of prayer is the kind of meditation where we ‘lay aside’ images, words and thoughts of every sort. Thoughts become images which become words. The mantra lays them all aside in the work of silence.
This deeper, more liberating detachment is difficult at first, then wonderful and difficult. The fear of becoming nothing becomes the joy of being. We don’t achieve this alone but with the help of grace, which is like an invisible hand always helping but never controlling us. We don’t become detached by austerity programs. Attempts at self-annihilation, negatively oriented spiritualities merely reinforce the ego. Nor do we become detached by indulging ourselves and calling what we want to do the right thing or even worse God’s will. The more detached we become, the less we think God wills anything. Or, perhaps we wonder if God only wants one thing: to be God and make everything he has made become God too.
It’s a winding straight road. We commute between images and breakthrough moments of imagelessness in the inner room. Sometimes the trains are on strike or the roads under construction. So, every day’s commute is unpredictable but we choose to have no choice about it and just do it. We never know what’s coming round the corner but we waste less time worrying and trying to control the future. Detachment becomes delightful but never an attachment or possession. It is not achieved because it is a natural development in the human process when we understand and accept that we are touched by grace. We don’t know what grace is or who is touching us. Nevertheless, we welcome it. At last we know we are on the way.

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2023
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