Saturday, January 26, 2008

Detaching From the World

It is no coincidence that the great religions of the world embrace the idea of detachment. In Buddhism, non-attachment to the things of this world brings freedom and an end of suffering. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is an obligatory practice in Islam; we also see Jews fasting during the Yom Kippur day of atonement and Hindus fasting for the month of Shravan by abstaining from meat. A tradition of silence and celibacy has accompanied the training of priests and nuns in monasteries and convents. Even within the secular world, we find ourselves detaching from our daily lives by hiking in woods or mountains, vacationing to exotic or remote destinations, or meditating.

Detachment is really a detachment from routine. Routines bring efficiencies to life, but they also leave us living life in auto-pilot mode. Rarely in routines do we notice our surroundings or feel the depth of our connections to our loved ones or our work. Routines are, in a sense, a kind of addiction: we crave the familiar, but are ultimately dulled by it. Outside of routine on a mountain camping trip, we lose the day-to-day worries and reconnect with what is really important. During a getaway vacation, we connect with our spouses in fresh ways. After a session in the immersion tank, the sights, sounds, and smells of the world are more vivid; we feel more alive.

It's one reason I like to break from trading periodically. There's value in getting away from the screen during the day, and there's value to getting away from markets. Some of my best trading has occurred when I've gained fresh energy and perspective after a time away.

Today I've begun one of my multi-day fasts. No food; no caffeine; no sugar; just water. I break all my work routines. The metabolism slows down, I slow down, and regain a little perspective.

Life is just too short to live on auto-pilot.


Therapy for the Mentally Well

The Doll-Faced Trader


Charles said...

And fasting may be heart healthy:


jeff said...

good idea and good luck! for how long (how many days) are you fasting?

Anatrader said...


Plato said he fasted "for greater physical and mental efficiency," just as Pythagoras, wouldn't even introduce his advanced students to his higher theorems and tenets until they did likewise.

The fact that all the great thinkers practiced prolonged fasting should be instructive.

Evolved Trader said...


Excellent post. And best of luck on your fast. I always practice non-attachment. I believe there is major emotional discord involved with unfulfilled trading expectations. Of course I strive hard to hit my trading goals, but I am never emotionally attached to the outcome of the goal.

Thanks for another great post.

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Hi Jeff,

My fast lasted 3 days and is followed by a gradual reintroduction of various (healthy) foods. Overall, it's wise to have medical supervision or consultation before undertaking such measures.


Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Hi AnaTrader,

Yes, I do think there's a reason why the world's major religions tend to have a place for fasting and other forms of worldly detachment. Breaking routines provides fresh perspectives--