“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off-limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.” — Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
At a rational level, we all know that we will eventually die. But it seems like a far off ending to our lives. The fact is, though, that everything dies. We can’t hold on to anything forever: relationships end, flowers die, cars end up in junkyards, no matter how often we try to save them.
Yet we continue to cling to those things we want to keep: stability in our culture, appreciation of moral values, an intact family—the list is endless. There is nothing wrong with trying to hold on to those things. But suffering comes at some point, not because we lose the people and things in our lives, but because we refuse to let them go, physically and emotionally. As human beings, at some level, we want to keep our friends, families, even our things, and feel betrayed when they disappear into an unknown future.
One of the things we can all do is learn to recognize the paradox of the mysteries of life, the impermanence and the losses, and know that we will suffer through them. But when we also recognize that our unwillingness to let them go—let all of them go—is the actual source of our unhappiness, we move through life with less pain and more joy.
When we learn to accept the pain of loss and also recognize that loss is the natural outcome of life, we suffer much less.
And we are free.Published in