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Natural Awakenings Atlanta


Apr 01, 2024 06:00AM ● By Paul Chen

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

I am, generally speaking, a positive, upbeat kind of guy, waking up each morning ready to embrace the world and everyone with whom I come in contact. It’s relatively rare for me, but from time to time, I do get despondent, feeling small and unloved. It is by no means a horrible feeling, like true depression, but when it comes around, it’s a time when friends matter most. 

Sure enough, over the last two days, I was in a deep funk, so I called my very good friend to come see me. I hadn’t needed that kind of attention for years, but something magical happened. By the time she departed, I was practically ebullient! I was amazed; I didn’t expect to feel that much better that fast.

Now, to me, a “best friend” is someone with whom you can share the ugliest aspects of yourself and the bad things you’ve done and not feel judged, but loved, despite it all. I was the fortunate recipient of such loving care last night—and more. My friend is into astrology, and as we dug into my astrological chart, we discovered things about me that made sense and helped explain certain aspects of my life. 

We can’t see ourselves in the eyes of others, and, in the vast majority of cases, we shouldn’t care about what others think of us. As the saying goes, “What others think of you is none of your business.” More importantly, we shouldn’t try to be a certain way just for the benefit of others. However, if someone who really loves you makes a keen observation about you, it’s probably worth listening to. 

My friend told me that I can present as somewhat “detached” in loving relationships. I was shocked to hear it because I absolutely feel that I love unconditionally and with all my heart. She felt that, because I’m so left-brained, the cool, logical, intellectual part of me overshadows the loving energy. In fact, she dissected my language to show me! While I get what she means, I think it has more to do with the fact that I feel relatively “non-attached.” 

Now, “detached” and “non-attached” sound the same, but they mean different things. In Buddhism, attachment is one of three major delusions. It is defined as seeing an object, liking it and exaggerating its good aspects to the point of believing that one must “possess” the object in order to be happy—whether that object is a thing, a person, a circumstance, a job, a reputation, and so forth. To me, “detached” implies that one doesn’t care about something, whereas “non-attached” means that one doesn’t believe the object in question is the cause of happiness. 

So, we can be deeply in love with another person in a romantic relationship, remain non-attached and therefore present a very different energy profile or feeling within the relationship than one that is solidly based on attachment. I see so many romantic relationships where people crave the sense of being pursued, or they crave their partner feeling that they “can’t live without them,” or they even crave being obsessed over. In other words, they crave attachment. In fact, one of my former partners once told me, “I wish you were more attached!”

My friend and I also talked about the meaning of self-love, something I couldn’t immediately define in a way that I could embrace. When we talked about it in the context of my situation, my friend landed upon one aspect of self-love that I found really useful—taking the time to reflect and learn something new about myself. Journaling can be considered a great tool of self-love in this regard. 

Well, of course I googled “self-love” before writing this, and I looked through two of the top-ranked articles I found. One of them enumerated seven aspects of self-love; the other listed eight. And —this is how smart my friend is—sitting at the top of both lists were “self-awareness” and “know thyself.”

When I originally reached out to my friend, I only expected her to listen and attempt to comfort me. I didn’t realize that I was going to learn so much and have so much fun exploring new thoughts along the way. The transformation of mood was beyond striking. The power of friendship should not be underestimated. ❧
Publisher of Natural Awakenings Atlanta since 2017, Paul Chen’s professional background includes strategic planning, marketing management and qualitative research. He practices Mahayana Buddhism and kriya yoga. Contact him at [email protected].
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