Saturday, November 19, 2016

How Deeply Did You Let Go

"The First Time Again"
 - desert dawn -

As I celebrate my birthday today a friend asked if, when I look back over the years of my life, I have any wisdom I might share?   I think I understand the nature of the question. He was asking me if, after all my accumulated years of education and experience, I have come up with any answers to the age-old “meaning of life” question?  In fact, I do have some wisdom to share on this day. I have come to learn this important lesson in my life: Don’t cling onto anything too tenaciously.

The Buddha taught:

You can only lose what you cling to.

As I think about it, this one little phrase may indeed be a clue to finding powerful wisdom, greater truth and deeper peace in this all too fragile, short and impermanent life we all live.

I have discovered that, whenever I have held a tight grip on the answers I had formulated about life and faith and God, I always lost something of the truth. Whenever I have taken a position in which I came to believe that “I am right,” which usually implied “you are  wrong,”  I always lost something about what is possible.

As I look back at my life I also realize that perhaps my biggest mistake was to think that my life was “something I possessed,”  something I needed to guard and to cultivate for “maximum results.”  Far too often I would find myself plotting and strategizing for better leverage - the better job, the next move, the nicer house, the higher rung up the ladder of success.

It all makes me think of one of my favorite Thomas Merton quotes:

People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success
only to find, once they reach the top,
that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

My guess is that I often missed seeing the joy of the present moment because my head was far too often evaluating the past or planning for the future. And so I may well have missed my children’s laughter, or paid little attention to the tender embrace of my spouse, overlooked the kindness of a friend or missed experiencing the joy of a morning sunrise, all because I was hanging onto life too tightly.

Today on my birthday, I am not at all plagued by regret over my past, but “honestly” if I could do something differently, I would certainly have clung to life far less fiercely, and so this is the wisdom I share after living all these years.

As always, today is a new beginning, a new opportunity to live “now” and embrace life as it is.  None of us ever “possesses” life, we simply “participate” in it. As our life flows on we all belong to one another, all of us held together in that awesome, abiding power of universal Love known as “God” – who could ask for anything more?

The Buddha also taught:

In the end these things matter most
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?

Such wonderful questions for a birthday- don’t you think?