As I walked along a forest path at Ananda’s Meditation Retreat one morning, I observed an unusual drama unfold before me. Crouched a few yards ahead was Lottie, a fluffy little gray cat who kept the Retreat’s kitchen free from mice. Her gaze was concentrated on something in front of her, and by her intense crouching pose, I could tell she was about to pounce on it.

But moments before she sprang, I saw something shoot off nearly ten yards ahead and lie wriggling in the path. Quietly drawing closer to find out what was happening, I saw that Lottie now held in her jaws the small, limp body of a lizard: a brown skink. These lizards have a remarkable ability to project their tail when attacked. Sure enough, the detached tail was what I’d seen thrashing around farther down the path.

Confused by the movement, Lottie dropped the skink, which began creeping into the underbrush, and ran after the tail. After holding the bony appendage in her mouth for a few moments, the cat realized that she’d been tricked, and ran back to catch the lizard, which was still in sight.

Much to my amazement, this spectacle repeated itself: the detached tail, still thrashing around, caused Lottie to drop the lizard once again and run after it. The second time, however, the little lizard was quicker and escaped to freedom, leaving Lottie with only a bony snack for all her efforts.

Watching this singular drama play out before me, my mind was in a whirl. I continued on my way to the Retreat’s dining room for breakfast, and shared the story there with my friend Seva. “Surely there’s some spiritual lesson in this,” I said to her.

Without missing a beat, Seva replied with one word: “Detachment.”

As amusing as this story is, there is in fact a deep message in it for all of us. Non-attachment is one of the fundamental attitudes on the spiritual path. Why?

When we are firmly held in the jaws of suffering, it’s important to cut loose that which is holding us back: that unfulfilled desire, or unattainable possession, or unsatisfied expectation of how others should treat us.

We also should seek inwardly to release things of a positive nature to which we’re attached—our possessions, our friends, our children, our spouse. This doesn’t mean that we reject them or give them the cold shoulder; rather, we should try to see them not as ours, but as gifts on loan to us from God. Then everything in life becomes much sweeter, as we begin to perceive God’s presence behind everything.

how to be nonattachedIs this easy? Of course not, but it is effective. Every time we inwardly detach from something troubling us or to which we’re clinging, we gain control over our happiness and our lives. In his book Affirmations for Self-Healing, Swami Kriyananda wrote:

Nothing is ours. No one belongs to us. Mentally, we should make a bonfire of our love for God, and cast into it all attachments, all desires, all hopes and disappointments.

It helps mentally to examine one’s heart every evening, and liberate it anew of all desires. Pluck out from your heart any burrs of new attachments that you find clinging there. Cast them joyfully into the fire of devotion.

Pray to God energetically, “I destroy all my attachments. They are no longer mine, Lord. I am free in Thee!”

Here Swamiji offers us practical tools to aid in this process of detachment. Ultimately the choice is very simple: cling to your old attachments or find freedom in God.

In case you’re wondering, brown skink lizards do grow back a new tail. But for us, may our tale end when we replace all of our attachments with the one attachment to God alone.

Towards inner freedom,

Nayaswami Devi

Listen to Devi as she reads the blog, then expands on it, often adding special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (9:27):


  1. How I wish we become free from attachments. I love your inspirational stories

  2. Being a granddaughter of Dr. And Mrs. Lewis, The first American devotees of Yogananda, I have never understood why any non- Indian would take a different name. I cannot see how that brings a devotee closer to God? I would like to hear your opinions. Namaste.

    1. WOW. So interesting. Both your relations and your comment. Not sure how I feel about name change. Names are more important than we think-a visceral feeling with them. Not sure if I’d want to change mine again. I was adopted and my name changed, and I’ve always deeply resented that. I don’t think I’d change my name again. Yogananda doesn’t care.

    2. mm

      A spiritual name can be an aid in identifying more with the soul qualities we aspire to. The tradition of acquiring a spiritual name is longstanding in yoga, but not everyone chooses to have a spiritual name. Some people have a spiritual name and only use it once in a while, and others make it their primary name. It is up to the person, and how they feel inwardly guided, whether or not to adopt a spiritual name.

    3. Dear Laura,

      What an honor to make your acquaintance. As others have said, for devotees taking an “Indian” name affirms a spiritual quality towards which they are aspiring. We have friends in India who have taken a new name to strengthen an aspect of God within themselves. When Swami Kriyananda gave me my spiritual name, he said, “I’m giving you the name ‘Devi.’ It means ‘Divine Mother,’ and you’d better live up to it.” It’s been a wonderful growth experience to strive towards this goal.

      1. Thank you for recounting Swamiji’s admonishment here, decades later. Sweet! Yopu lived up to it. in softness and stern-ness :-)

    4. People in Indigenous cultures, too, take on new names. by choice or after certain initiations, when a person;s character has emerged, deserving of a new name, that indicates the emergence of changed identity, to past lives or identity given by parents / or a clan. The NAMe of one person can change to reflect internal changes in identity. Self-chosen, or not.
      I nay case, it is best NOt to IDENTIFY with anything, not with personaloity, accomplishments, heredity. tribal or national association. To identify with – is bndage. nd that includes one’s name. Hence, advanced students do not speak in the “I” form. It seems difficult to do . however, Dr. V Lad, the great Ayurvedic Doctor, has mastered that art of speech. I met him over 30myears ago. He explaine to his students his unconventional manner of speech, never in the “I” form but thrid person, detached. No indetity o attachment. Lizard Tails grow back. The lizard doe not rename it.

  3. Wonderful “tail” Devi. Such a great story and a way to draw an analogy to giving up attachment to be free in Thee. Thanks for this inspiring post!



  4. This story/event bears a very valued lesson. There is lying another moral also. We should focus on bigger things; otherwise we might miss the more important one.
    Aum Guru

  5. Beautiful- a practice I keep in mind to do on a regular basis. Not easy, but like Kriyananda said, the freedom of detachment does strangely feel wonderful!!

  6. Thank you , so much. I tend to forget sometimes why we are here but I get a reminder for instant like this story, why we are here.

  7. mm

    What a clear way of expressing detachment, and not holding onto mistakes or things outside of our control. Thank you for this blog, and for the reminders and insights on how to live more in God.

  8. Free yourself from external identification and
    you turn round to connect with all that is in the universe as one.

  9. Thank you Devi! What a perfect time to read these words. ❤️🙏🏼

  10. Thank you, Nayaswami Devi,
    What beautiful guidance to receive after a challenging night I had yesterday. Thank you God and Guru!

  11. Thank you Devi for the perfect story of Lottie and the skink lizard. Just like sweet Lottie – I noticed how easy it is to think something or someone belongs to us and we are entitled to have it, possess it and can be easily confused when it slips away. It is an gift when life gives us one of those unique opportunities to let go of the skinky thoughts and feelings that confine us. Aum – Prakriti

  12. Thank you Devi. May freedom ring in the Temple bells of our heart. God bless you!

  13. Well now,I have heard of and have even met a few skanks..but Ive never heard of or met a skink,especially a brown one!
    Anyway,that story is a great illustration of what happens when we are so easily distracted by and eagerly go after the deceptive worldly desires and bad habits; we are left with disappointment,discouragement and discontent( the very unhealthy,waste of time and energy bony tail remnant aftermath). Thanks again for your good work and writings.

  14. A wonderful ‘tale’ and so very timely, right now. In deep gratitude. Steve

  15. “Every time we inwardly detach from something troubling us or to which we’re clinging, we gain control over our happiness and our lives.”
    Well said, Deviji and something to continuously aspire to and inspire myself with.
    Jai Guru!!

  16. This story has anchored well the teaching on detachment and ‘attached’ me to cats and lizards 🙏

  17. Respected Devi Ji,

    I wait for every Friday and try to observe your messages in the blog. The message that you have written this time is the ethos of spiritual development. Actually so far we try to detach ourselves from our desires we move forward towards Almighty. We are the entity of His own, we are none but the magnificent creation of Almighty.

    You have nicely placed your experience, observation and explanations to make us understand about the importance of detachment in spirituality.

    Thank you Devi Ji.

    Joy Mahabatar Baba, Joy Yogiraj, Joy Paramhansha Yoganandaji.

  18. Your message fits me through my life. After retirement, I attempted some businesses which all collapsed. Heavy debts pursued and friends and relations abandoned me. I was standing alone and forlorn. With the grace of God, my wife and three children firmly stayed with me and within matter of time the miseries and problems dissolved and melted away like a bloke of ice on heat. Through the blessings of Guru, the spiritual path became visible.
    “Detachment.” Yes! as per your message “When I was firmly held in the jaws of suffering, I cut loose that which was holding me. Gone are the desire for the unattainable possession and unsatisfied expectation of how others should treat us” This is a true story of a retired man of 84 years old.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  19. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,

    Thank you for sharing the blog!
    A wonderful story of tail & tale

    These lines are profound and something to practice – Cling to your old attachments or find freedom in God.


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