Detachment

Tonight, as I exercised in the gym, a rather frightening and humbling thought came to me:

What if she died?

Out of nowhere, a random scenario played itself in my mind as vividly as if being watched in a theater. I was standing at the entrance to the living room and kitchen, just at the end of the little hallway that leads to the door to our apartment. As I stood there, I watched her collapse. She fainted. I thought she had just passed out, maybe due to not having eaten enough that day (she tends to do that), but as I tried to wake her, I noticed her heartbeat was shallow, and her breathing almost non-existent.

I tried again to wake her. She wouldn’t wake. I called 911.

At that moment, a was at the hospital, receiving the news that she had died. All light had left me. I didn’t cry; it was as if every emotion and every ounce of strength dissapated. I called my family, who was in absolute shock. I called her parents, and to her mom — who’s a nurse — I had to explain what happened.

After she died, I had no idea what to do. Pictures flooded my mind of spending a year doing nothing but going to the gym and reading, staying at my parents’ home, or going off to a far off, secluded place, where I could let what just happened sink in, where I could review my life. Would I take a vow of silence and go off into a monastery, or would I simply try to start another life somewhere else? Would I ever…? I don’t know.

As I thought about this, my knees buckled, and my stomach tightened. The 70-pounds I was doing tricept-curls with suddenly seemed like a million pounds, and my arms felt like broken violin strings. I put the weight down. I had the sudden urge to run home, to be with her.

Then I started to come back to my senses: I was at the gym. She was at home, sleeping safely. Everything was OK. I just needed to control the random fluctuations of my mind.

Later, as I drove home, a thought came to me: anguish comes from attachment. Whenever I would read Buddhist writings, I would read those words and apply them only to those material things, things like clothing, cars, and money, things to which we often assign way too much importance. Never did I think to apply that logic to people, least of all to her.

I guess that by losing her, I made the connection.

As I came to this realization, another thought struck me: if attachment leads to anguish, and detachment leads to the elimination of anguish, how does this apply to “success principles”? How does it affect the goal-oriented person? After all, do not all goals have emotional components to them? Components to which you attach yourself?

While I won’t yet venture to try and answer that question, the realization of importance here is that attachment leads to anguish, which inevitably leads to all manner of suffering, while detachment eliminates anguish (and therefore, suffering), and that the only thing we have to detach ourselves from is the idea that something is permanent.

All things shall pass. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

This realization makes for one hell of a hard pill to swallow. No wonder people believe it takes many lifetimes to really understand this.

Tonight, as I look at her in bed, sleeping safely, I begin to realize that while I rest with the comfort of knowing that she’s fine, I paradoxically find the idea that one day it won’t matter of some comfort.

Not much. Just some.

(Afterthought: Actually, another paradox arises: what of the idea of an afterlife? Is that merely a stumbling block on the path to detachment, a way for us to feign detachment for this life while harboring it? If there isn’t rebirth, would believing that there is be an attachment, or would it be an item of attachment? To anyone who’s truly detached, I guess the answer is that it doesn’t matter — afterlife or no afterlife, all that matters is to be in the now — but I’m probably wrong, and maybe someone can help me out with that.)

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