Two of the most challenging aspects of life are death and change. Sometimes life takes a turn, and what has changed is truly incomprehensible. We’re stunned and numb. We have no idea how to think or what to say. We flounder and fall back on awkward platitudes. We want something to do when nothing can be done.
For myself, I am still learning to be both vulnerable and strong in the presence of grief, whether that grief is someone else’s or my own. I am still learning when to offer a simple, caring presence, a quality of stillness that supports the person suffering to cry cleanly.
It’s particularly hard when someone we love has changed how they feel about us, or is sick or in trouble. It can be just as hard when that someone is us. In the clamor of coping, our minds tend to go into overdrive trying to make sense of what is happening. If we can somehow manage, even for a moment, to suspend the struggle for meaning, a little door to peace may open inside of us. When it does, relax and pay attention. That sense of peace is your guide.
A powerful paradox of life is that our confrontation with death and change directly relates to our ability to commit in the arena of love and relationship. We eagerly go into a relationship feeling and believing that love will put us back together. And for a while it does. But over time, love also picks us apart. Life picks us apart. What each person feels changes. How we think about love changes. Our expectations aren’t met. Our needs change. The aspects of relationships that are about finances and physical security change. Health changes. We age.
Being committed to a relationship means that we must confront and discover who we are and what we want, more than once. Even in the seeming safety of a relationship, at some point we will still have to cross an unknown sea. Each time is a crossing to a different shore, but we’re very attached to the familiar shore we had. Venturing into the unknown can be nerve wracking. Here is a recommendation. Do your very best to be patient and kind. Through times of unknowing, with the death of the familiar, be as healthy as possible. New life will follow. We just have to take care of ourselves. Put your energy towards sensing how to take care of yourself.
There are no rules about how each of us should act or be when confronted with the death of what was. When you notice yourself feeling oppressed and your mind arguing mightily about you, about her, about how life should be…pause. Pause. Take a moment to let go of every single rule of how things should be. You might find a moment of peace contains more wisdom than all of your struggling to find ground. Pause. Take care of yourself.
The death part of life is an area that people instinctively run from, because the fear of loss is so powerful. But when we run for too long, we can become dried up and desperate. Stop running. Turn and face… everything. To stop running does require a degree of mental and spiritual fortitude. But the fortitude is directed towards letting go rather than holding on. We gather our courage to surrender. In the long run, we set ourselves free through the deliberate and gentle process of enlarging the space within the heart and breath.
A whole-hearted life is not about life or death. It is about life and death. There is a place within each of us where our fixed ideas about how we should be and the world should be, become less important. Each moment we manage to have room within us for both life and death, life, all life, becomes more valuable.
If we somehow manage to abide with the death of what we had, in time, life returns. Not to what life was before, but to what life is now. The life-death-life cycle is part of nature. It is also part of love.
In the passage of life and death, I have no need to leave my foot- print. I would rather leave love’s footprint.
So through your deepest challenges, I encourage you to allow parts of you to die. Where your attachments and memories are burdened and harsh, do your best to let them go, even where you emotionally don’t want to let go. Understand this. The good parts of what you had will not be lost. In the quiet soul part of your being, allow this letting go. Allow death. Be patient.
Every time you manage to let go just a fraction, each fraction will add up. In time, the love you wanted so much will be revealed within you as you. You. A simple soul-filled human being. Love is what we have to offer and love is what we will take with us.
From Allowing God: Insights to Inspire and Renew the Fire of Love at the Very Center of Your Soul by Woo Du-An and Robert G. Novak