As I watched the arrival of fire engines and the smoke poured into the sky, I thought about the woman who lived there and how much her life was in process of change. I remembered some of my own losses and I reflected on the catastrophic effects of the recent Tsunami in Japan. So much a part of this earthly life is loss, letting go of what we hold dear. Sometimes we live in the illusion that we can keep what we have, but in the end age and time and events claim all.
How do people cope with devastating loss? Death and disease, fire and flood are part of the human experience. And during our stay on the planet we lose family, friends, lovers, illusions, our strength, our hair, parts of our bodies, our beloved pets. Most of us struggle to learn how to grieve our losses, how to accept the unacceptable. And after we have taken the time to feel our feelings and surrender to what is, we still need to move our minds to a place of appreciation for what we once had and for what we still have. At some point we break through our denial and realize that everything is impermanent, dust in the wind. How can something be so obvious and unknowable at the same time?
Perhaps breath is the perfect analogy: we take in, we release; most of the time we are not even aware we are doing it. The conscious and the unconscious are intertwining; we pay attention or we don't. Every loss has a lesson and we get stronger in our broken places learning to accept life on its terms. And maybe we come to understand that life is sorta like an ice cream sundae. It is ours to enjoy and cherish every bite before it is gone.... or we can worry about the calories, regret that we ate the whole thing, fear a possible stomachache, and allow our limiting thoughts to devour our joy. We choose where we put our attention, and while it may automatically go to a negative place, we can learn to redirect, we can learn to let go.
During a time in my life of deep and heartrending loss, a friend sent me the following poem by Rumi:
"The barn burned down.
Now I can see the moon."
For some reason, in the depth of my grief, the simplicity of these lines made me laugh. And that laughter opened a window in my perspective. I was still really sad, but there was also light. I was able to accept that I had lost someone I loved and my heart ached, and I recognized that I was responsible for what happened next in my life. I could choose to look and see what might be towards the horizon.... and when I did, I caught a glimpse of the moon.