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Attachment vs. Detachment: Not an Either Or

A number of years ago, I was consulting with a wonderful gentleman, (Dr. B.) at Kaiser for some mental and spiritual support. He was the personification of the ideal wise and delighted and delightful uncle archetype one would desire. During one of our discussions, I told him I was wrestling with the concepts of Attachment and Detachment, and that to me they seemed to be mutually exclusive polar opposites. One had to choose to be in the state of one or the other.

We both sat in stillness for a few minutes, watching each other, while he considered my conundrum. He was a handsome, elderly gentleman, with a long soft face, a curious amused smile, and a shock of white hair that combined to suggest his family tree might include Albert Einstein and Harpo Marx. 

After a time, his voice soft and kind, he said, “Detachment helps you tolerate aridity; attachment helps you drill for water.”

It was one of those moments that changes one’s thinking in a startling and permanent way. My perception of these concepts – as opposites in permanent conflict – dissolved, as I slowly realized that I could experience them simultaneously. By surrendering my either/or judgment of those two states of being, I could find ease and grace by detaching from my desire for a preferred situation or outcome, and at the same time, I could work on ways to bring about change. 

It takes practice on a daily basis, but by embracing these seeming opposites, I find I can experience some measures of both comfort and empowerment while dealing with the vicissitudes life brings, especially during this time of Covid19.

Thank you Dr. B. for your gift!

© Anacaria Myrrha 2020

Image: Mohamed Hassan

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