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I was chatting with a friend online yesterday. Since we have not spoken in a while, I was catching her up on the new development in my life, and I told her about my recent heartache. She asked how I am doing, so I told her I am doing surprisingly well. Life goes on whether I like it or not, so I’ve decided to live life as fully as I can everyday. She then asked me a question that caused me to pause in retrospect. She asked, “Are you over him?”
My initial response to her was, “Yes, I am over him!” From the start, I took steps to make sure I get over this guy as quickly as I can, and I feel very good about my progress so far. But my friend questioned my progress, as in she did not fully believe me that I have gotten over the guy. Later in our conversation, she questioned whether I actually loved the guy at all.
Her questions actually caused me to pause and evaluate the situation. First, am I really progressing nicely towards getting over the guy? And second, if the answer to the first question is yes, did I really not love him as much as I thought I did?
I thought about those two questions a lot last night and this morning, and I came to this conclusion: There is a big difference between real love and emotional attachment. When we are emotionally attached to somebody, we crave their attention and presence. When we don’t receive their attention and/or have their presence in our lives, we feel sad and maybe even depress. Real love, on the other hand, is mutual respect and acceptance.
So the answers to the questions above are, yes, I am over the guy because I am no longer emotionally attached to him. And yes, I did love him because I accepted and respected him while we were together. In addition, I am forever grateful for all the wonderful memories and life lessons he had taught me. If that is not love, I am not sure what else counts.
Update: If you are looking for a practical guide to emptiness and non-attachment, you may want to visit my more recent post here.
One of my dearest friends is a devout Buddhist. I actually learned a lot about Buddhism just by hanging out with him. Although I am not a Buddhist myself, he claimed my thinking are very much in line with many of Buddhist teaching.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Buddhism, the concept of “emptiness” is central to the Buddhist philosophy and the practice of Buddhism. If you want to read more about it, here is a great resource to learn more. Without going too deep into what emptiness is (since I don’t really know much about it myself), it’s suffice to say that one of what they preach in “emptiness” is non-attachment. That is to say, you are not enslaved to anything or anyone with either your thoughts or your body.
In this day and age where consumption is king and materialism rules the world, it is too readily assumed that “non-attachment” is better than a full acceptance of earthly life. In fact, it is often assumed that ordinary humans only reject the non-attachment concept because it is too hard to achieve. But I am starting to wonder if that’s really the case. Could it be that there are people who genuinely do not wish to become enlightened? Is it not probable that some who achieve or aspire to achieve enlightenment have never felt much temptation to be human beings? In other words, what if I just want to be human with all the virtues and vices of one, including being attached? In fact, I rather like the fact that I am attached to the people I love; it makes me feel human. Why is that so wrong?