Know your honey
Loss is inevitable. The hives we work will one day be empty; the people we love will one day expire; the sun that warms us will one day consume the earth. Knowing the impermanence of the things in our lives means that we need to learn to deal with the emotional and practical aspects of change.
Buddism offers a solution to the pain of loss: equanimity. The practice of equanimity is to remove value judgements and make different outcomes equal (no “better” or “worse” just “is”). With this mindset loosing something is no longer “bad” as it is equal to the non-loss option and therefore shouldn’t be a cause of grief. My difficulty in putting equanimity into action is that it leaves no room for preference. There are things that I want and things that I do not want and it seems impossible to remove that distinction.
My father became quite ill and died this winter and I’m sure that if I could bring myself to a state of equanimity about his passing my grief would diminish. I can’t, however, simply meditate away my desire to have him in my life and my profound sadness at his absence. I wish he was still alive enjoying himself; that he could see one more spring, savour one more meal, and share one more hug. It is doubtful that I will ever stop wanting this impossible thing over the reality of a world without him.
It might be possible to put minor preferences into the light of equanimity (eg. appreciating ice cream flavours without judging one better than the other) but can you actually love something without having preferences associated with it? Is it possible to breathe deep and accept the suffering of a loved one.
An alternative to equanimity is to accept the pain of loss as the price to pay for the enjoyment of having. Instead of avoiding attachment I propose we dive in with the full understanding that the agony of loosing will be a part of the experience of living. Indeed the more positive and happy the experience the more painful its removal becomes.
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
– Alfred Lord Tennyson
The winter has passed and spring is before us so let us seek joy and fullness in the time we have on this earth while we feel our hurts deeply and fully.