Carlos Castaneda has written a series of remarkable books in which he describes his shamanic apprenticeship with the Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan. Don Juan advises Castaneda that a man of knowledge (an impeccable warrior) chooses a path and follows it with heart, acting as if what he does matters, even though he knows that it does not, and understanding that nothing is more important than anything else.
Passion acts with great enthusiasm, extraordinary intensity, and deep feelings. Detachment lets go of all concern for the results of the action. Upon first consideration, it might seem as if passion and detachment don’t belong together. You might conclude that if you were detached you would not feel strongly about a situation, but would be indifferent, feeling little or nothing. Detachment without passion, a boring dullness of caring about nothing, is a dreadful state of consciousness. No wonder so few have chosen detachment as a serious spiritual practice.
When Don Juan advises “act as if what you do matters,” he is suggesting action with passion. When you act with passion, you feel truly, completely alive. This is because passion exists only in the now moment—you feel passion now or not at all. On the other hand, detachment is about the future. Detachment means you completely surrender and let go of your concern for the future outcome of your action. You are not detached about the action itself. On the contrary, you are filled with passion in the now moment.
Detachment flows naturally from the wisdom of acknowledging Don Juan’s advice that “nothing matters more than anything else.” What you do does not really matter in the sense that ultimately you have no control over anything. Outcomes or results might not be anything like what you intend them to be. All you have is choice about what you will do and how you will be in the now moment. You are able to let go of concern for the results of your actions because you understand that each individual is a tiny part of something infinitely vast and wonderful which you influence but cannot control.
When you understand that you have control over nothing, your response can be despair or detachment. Despair is powerless while detachment is a quality of Soul Freedom. Soul knows you don’t need control. All is as it should be. Your life is unfolding as part of a grand cosmic natural order. You fit into that larger natural order whether you want to or not and whether you are aware of it or not. Your challenge and opportunity is to say yes to what is—all of it, exactly as it is, for better or worse right here, right now.
It is a paradox that making choices can both bring freedom to you and also rob you of it. That you can make choices is the chief characteristic of all freedom, but if you are attached to the outcomes of your action, you lose freedom as soon as you obtain it. You become a slave to your choices, stuck in a self-constructed rut. If you worry about the results of your actions, you are robbed of the natural joy of being fully present in the now moment. However, by making choices, by acting with passion, and by being detached from the results of your actions, you remain completely free. You act boldly without taking yourself too seriously.
In your relationship, passionate detachment means putting the best of yourself into your life together. Allow your creativity to shine forth in your actions, to reveal your love, respect, and desire, but without expectation of your mate’s response. You might plan to be together forever, and do your best to make that happen, but you know that you have no real control over the future—accident, illness, or adversity can separate you. Nevertheless, don’t let that stop you from committing to a lifetime of loving.