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 Blooming Stars

Healthy Detachment

            I know someone who, after having gone through a very painful experience, and after having plunged into total despair and hopelessness, is learning to regain his meaning and purpose in life. His story briefly is this. His wife retired from her job three years before he did, and went to live with their youngest daughter in another state. Their oldest daughter lives in another country. He educated both his daughters, his only children, to the point that both of them have very good jobs. He even got a specialist orthopedic surgeon from London to India to correct his oldest daughter's previous surgery due to an accident so she can walk. He was totally dedicated to his wife and children. The only thing that may not have sat well with his wife and daughters was his criticism of his youngest daughter's loose life. All his life's dreams dashed, he was totally devastated and did not want to live. However, under the correct conditions, he was able to regain his health and enjoy life through healthy detachment.

            All of us at some point or another in our life have gone through painful or even extremely painful experiences due to no fault of our own. Some of our near ones who tortured us out of their own fear, or others who opposed us for their own gain might think that we would be better dead than alive. We do not need to despair. We have great historical examples of Socrates, Christ, Saint Paul, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr., to cite a few, who suffered for the values and principles they stood for. We can emerge spiritually and emotionally wholesome from such destructive experiences and persons only through healthy detachment and from a deep abiding faith in ourselves and ultimately in a Higher Power or God beyond us yet deep and more intimate than ourselves within us.

            Healthy detachment is essential for growth in spiritual life. It is letting go completely and unconditionally believing a Higher Force (God) is going to hold us in life unharmed. It is indispensable for lasting and meaningful solution to any problem in life. Spiritual authors call it holy indifference or affective neutrality. Holy indifference, for instance, is expressed in Christian marriage vows wherein one spouse promises to hold his/her partner in bond and love for ever in good times or bad times, health or sickness, wealth or poverty. A great spiritual writer, Ignatius of Loyola, in his well-known Spiritual Exercises, proposed this kind of indifference for making right choices in one's life, and union with God and service of humanity. This kind of indifference or detachment sees one sailing through life with even-mindedness and even-handedness in benign as well hostile situations. A person with healthy detachment does not have inordinate or disordered attachments or affections. This person carefully discerns the messages contained in favorable and unfavorable events in life. This person celebrates life and lives life fully in the present moment, and totally surrenders self actively to God and to the inevitable happenings that one is helpless in avoiding. The total surrendering of life to God as self-oblation expressed through total service of humanity, and unreserved and full celebration of life can happen only through healthy detachment.


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