Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Yesterday our daughter left after spending 3 weeks with us over the Christmas holiday.  Because she lives far away we usually only see her once or twice a year.  It was a great visit filled with lots of chatting and feasting.  Mostly the feelings were of joy and gratitude when she left at being so fortunate to have such a wonderful being in my life.  But also there was the tug of the heart, a small feeling of sadness  in seeing her go.   As I went about my evenings activities I watched this feeling come and go.  I have learned not push away this feeling of sadness, to just be with that feeling of bittersweetness, that feeling of missing someone I love.  I can do this more often these days rather than brushing it off with "I shouldn't feel sad, I'm perfectly fine, we had a wonderful time together."  What did Shakespeare say?  "Parting is such sweet sorrow."  And this is one of the facts of life.  We don't need to medicate ourselves, have a drink, turn on the TV or whatever it is we do to comfort ourselves or avoid the uncomfortable, we just need to spend time with the truth.  It is a gift really to have someone or even something in your life that you love so much that you feel that bittersweetness.  In the end we will all be separated from everything we love.  The Dalai Lama who I would call one of the happiest people I can think of says that he spends some time everyday thinking about his death.

The other thing I was reminded of was that her leaving created this period of transition and transition periods can have varying levels of difficulty.  Any time we change an activity, from ending a meal to changing a job, to loosing something important in our lives we are in a period of transition.  So I asked myself last night why are transitions uncomfortable? And it seems to me as humans we have this forward momentum to keep doing what we're doing (isn't it a law of physics as well?)  So that the natural inclination is to keep on doing what we have been doing.  I notice this in myself even when something may not feel good.  Somehow there is something that keeps us doing it, the path of least resistance. What's that joke "nobody likes change except a baby in a dirty diaper"?  Or the only constant is change.

In the order of Soto Zen that my teacher comes from they have a little verse that they recite at the end of a meal and at any time when they are changing activities.  It seems helpful to shine the light of awareness on these transitions that we mostly slide over without notice.  Then maybe we become more comfortable with the changes that are always happening in our lives?  We can become familiar with impermanence,  one of the marks of existence as it is called in Buddhist training.   

And so that's where I find the Dharma today, in not pushing away the "missing of my daughter" and yet not building a story around it that feeds suffering, "oh this is so awful, I wish she didn't have to go, why doesn't she live closer, blah blah, blah." ....Just spending time with the truth of impermanence, the feelings of discomfort that accompany change and transition, the bittersweetness of love (and chocolate), the gratitude for her presence in my life and the gratitude for having this wonderful training that brings sanity and equanimity  and richness to my life.  May you be fortunate enough to have such treasured beings in your life!

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