In my studies of Buddhism, I am constantly reminded that everything is the path. Good, bad, and indifferent, spiritual or secular, there is an opportunity to learn, to practice. No matter what comes, no matter what is, the instruction is to open to it, surrender to the moment, connect with the reality of experience.
Of course, when things are bad, this is harder to do. When someone you love is dying, and then when they are finally gone, it’s hard to stay present, open to the pain, to face the reality that they are gone. The amazing Amy McCracken said it best, when she talked about sweet Alyssa Doane’s memorial service,
Alyssa was buried this morning.
Despite all of the pretty flowers
and hundreds of messages
of love and support and the promise
that she was no longer suffering
and already dancing in heaven,
seeing Floppy in her casket and her mom at the grave site
made me want to go home and sleep for the rest of my life.
I cry every time I read that, for Amy, for Alyssa, for Alyssa’s mom, for everyone who loved Alyssa, for me and for everyone who’s ever lost someone they love, for the fact that so many of us can read what Amy wrote and even if we don’t know her or Alyssa, we know just what that feels like.
I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön’s book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, trying to understand how to do just that, live with uncertainty and change, with the promise of impermanence and mortality. Pema shares a quote from Steve Jobs that is helpful,
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
No reason not to keep your heart open, let it all in. We all bought tickets for a airplane ride where the guaranteed ending is not a wonderful vacation but rather a fiery crash in which we are all going to die, we are taking a ride on a boat guaranteed to sink — this is the deal. I know this intellectually, and yet my heart keeps getting broken by it, I still want to “go home and sleep for the rest of my life.” I try to be curious, open, gentle, but I fail.
We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen, so today I’m trying to make a little room, create some space, allow breath to be breath, love to be love, grief to be grief — allowing it all to just be.