Indifference and Detachment

Indifference and independence are the two wings which enable the soul to fly.  —  Inayat Khan

Indifference and independence are two words that those of us imprinted by the Judeo-Christina culture  put a spin on that causes them to sound rather uncaring or, in the case of independence, unconnected.  I think women, in particular, live their lives in ‘connection mode,’ the perspective that everything originates and culminates in relationship, and I think that is true, although not in the way it might seem, at first, to be. But one at a time:

I told, in an earlier entry here, about a dream I had (one of those dreams that is not a dream) about my Murshid, Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, who came to me and explained the true meaning of indifference to me:  indifference, he said, can only come from being completely and utterly in love.  This was a revelation to me, as I would have thought that indifference meant not caring.  But it’s true:  if one loves utterly, then one is indifferent to the other, because no matter what happens, no matter what the other person does, one sees only love.  My younger daughter demonstrated this to me recently, when in one of those “do I look ugly in this dress” trips women put themselves through, I said to her “I know why your father thinks I’m wonderful no matter how I look, but you say the same, and I’m sure you must notice my imperfections…”  And she just shrugged and said, “You’re just my mother, and I love you.”  And there we have it:  those who truly love us see only love.  This is why, I learned in a psychology class, children forget what their parents look like very quickly if they happen to die:  they didn’t see what the world saw, they saw only the face of love.  Perhaps our children teach us our first and last lessons in love, because one learns, as a parent, that there is no love so glorious, so horrible, powerful, and obsessive as the love one has for one’s child.  When our children are young, we are imprisoned in a love and protectiveness that are powerfully intense.   Yet if we use those feelings to learn to  love well, that love become transmuted into the deepest love that could exist on this earth, and complete indifference to what the child does, because whatever they do must be what they need to do.  I have been discussing recently, with some friends, the generation of parents that came before us, the one that learned “spare the rod and spoil the child” from their parents, and believed that giving their children whole approval and whole love would somehow “spoil” them.  With my children, I have found it to be completely the opposite, and although it was hard to grow up with such unforgiving and sometimes cruel parents, I feel more sorry for them that they missed the joy of true love with their children.

So, indifference:  to be able to love so completely as to be uncaring, detached from the actions of the object of one’s love.  Wherever it starts, whatever or whoever one loves completely, it seems that the next step would be to spread this love out to encompass all one’s relationships and finally, the world.  How could we have a problem with anyone if we love this much?  It sounds a bit daunting, though, to learn to love so much, because that degree of love might be seen as annihilating in its totality:  if I love that much, will there be anything left of me?  That is the pivotal stop on the road to true love.

In order to arrive at spiritual attainment two gulfs must be crossed: the sea of attachment and the ocean of detachment.  –Inayat Khan

I remember when I was young, spiritual attainment meant developing the ability to reach “high” states of consciousness, to be someone with an atmosphere that said to people “this is a holy woman.”  It didn’t take long, however, to learn that on this plane of existence, attainment means falling on love so completely that there is nothing but the beloved.  When I was that young, I saw the beloved in my children, my friends, my husband, my teacher….yet I learned, finally, that to do justice to that love so terrible in its intensity and its promise, I had to learn to love the whole world that reflected itself in my beloveds.  I thought that indifference and detachment meant a withdrawal from the world, and learned that it meant the complete opposite.

...Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. –Pema Chodron

Indifference and detachment are the end of love-longing  They are the mountain paths we follow to get there.