Human life involves loss.Theres no way around it. When we are born, we lose the comfort and security of the womb. As we grow, we lose the blissful innocence of youth. When we become adults, we lose our childhood. When we age, we lose our youth. We may lose our health. We may lose our friends. We may lose our families. We may lose our physical abilities. Ultimately, we will lose our body.
Each day we live, we lose. Most of us dont have any idea how many days we have, or which one will be our last or the last for someone we love. Every choice we make involves loss, the loss of all the other choices we did not make. The only constant thing is change. So in this world of constant change and loss, is there some essential ingredient, some essential part of our being that never changes and never dies? If so, how do we find it? Through quantum physics, we know that there is only One Energy in the physical universe. Do we have a connection with it? Obviously. If so, how do we come to know that? Is our essential being actually Infinite and Eternal?
Would the conscious recognition of our Oneness with all that is with that which transcends death and loss give us a sense of security, fulfillment, and happiness which transcends all the anxiety, insecurity, danger and change inherent in form? According to the Chuang Tzu, the word Way is actually a translation of the Chinese word Tao. Tao can be defined as the way to happiness, or the way to contentment, or the way to God. The suggestion that the way (to happiness) is gained by loss confronts us with a profound paradox: What are we losing, and what are we gaining? To our rational Western minds, it seems preposterous to suggest that loss is the route to happiness. We live in a society where it is assumed that happiness is achieved through the acquisition of material wealth and power and the development of fulfilling relationships. We have been taught to look outside of ourselves outside of this moment for happiness. We think we will be happy when we have a different job, a different partner, a different house, a different car, different clothes, or when we look different. Well be happy when were older, or if only we could be younger.
But the great spiritual teachers have taught us that happiness is within us always.When we are unhappy, its not as a result of the external conditions of our lives. Its the result of our minds being caught in some idea of how things should be different than they are in order for us to be happy.How often have we and our loved ones said, That was the most awful experience of my life, but boy did I grow! Because our culture has, historically, given us precious little preparation for these inevitable experiences, at the moment a loved one dies or a relationship ends, or we are told were terminally ill, we often feel like weve crashed into a brick wall. Were confused and frustrated.
Were shattered. Were dazed. We keep replaying the facts in our minds, desperately searching for some missing piece that makes the reality turn out to be as unreal as we feel in our hearts it must be. The mind says, This just simply couldnt have happened! Our cultural training, which has been to ignore, deny and avoid whatever is unpleasant, leads us deeper into confusion and numbness by offering only distraction as a solution. And the relentless effort of our minds to understand what has happened in some subtle way keeps the raw edge on our pain. We are caught in the agonizing despair of our grief because we continually attempt to use our minds to resolve it, or to help us ignore it. But the real healing of grief takes place when we make the journey from the mind to the heart. When the heart is broken, the thought of getting into a deeper place within it is terrifying. The heart is precisely where the healing takes place. When its broken, its the most wide open.
It has been said, That which is real never changes and that which changes isnt real. An open heart gives us the opportunity to touch that which never dies and never changes. As we come to honor the inevitable change inherent in form, our emotional and psychological struggles may help us ultimately to surrender our attachment to that which isnt real. Then we may uncover the real treasure: the infinite, eternal love and joy which reside always at the core of our being.
John E. Welshons is a gifted counselor and teacher of meditation. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed book, Awakening from Grief (Inner Ocean Publishing; 2nd Edition; 2003; $14.95). He can be contacted at www.openheartseminars.com.