Letting go, Holding on

Lissa Rankin

When I was talking to a friend at my dance church about loss yesterday, she looked deep in my eyes and said "This too shall change." Another friend said, "When you've lost everything, you can do anything." It got me reflecting on the relationship between loss, attachment, and fear. So much of what drives our greatest fear is that we're afraid of losing what we cherish. We're afraid we just couldn't handle losing a child, our spouse, a beloved parent, or our own health- so we cling to things we think we can control, things we hope will bring us security in an ever-changing world- the job, the money, the house, the car. We expend a great deal of energy trying to shore up our lives, exhausting ourselves with the effort to ward off uncertainty and loss.

Yet this too shall change. There is a certain freedom is this realization. What appears certain is merely an illusion, always at risk of revealing its essential ephemeral nature. Face to face with the ultimate reality of impermanence, we panic. "I can't hold onto anything! Everything is at risk!" It feels supremely unsafe. Usually, when I seek safety, I go to Harbin Hot Springs- only it burned down in a wildfire. Or I go hiking, but one of my friends was just murdered on the very hiking trail where I seek solace. A friend always seeks solace in the ocean on his surfboard, only the ocean swept our mutual friend Jamie out to sea and he can't get in the water. He feels betrayed by the water.

"It's not safe out there," the mind says. "There's nothing I can stake in the ground, nothing that feels certain." It creates a sort of existential crisis. The ego goes crazy. It starts to crack, to fall away. Its inability to control life is revealed, shining a light on the ludicrousness of the way we live our lives, always trying to avoid change. The pain of loss, if you let it, reveal the tenderness, the vulnerability, the purity of light within the cracked open broken heart. Free of the illusion of certainty, courage emerges. When you have nothing left to lose, you might as well try everything you've ever been too scared to try.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says, "The bad news is that you are falling through the air, there is nothing to hang onto, and you have no parachute. The good news is that there is no ground."

There is a ground, but it is an inner ground, a ground of being, a center of unconditional love. It is a feature of the heart, something internal that is unchanging. This ground of being, this true nature with a core of love is something we can trust in an ever-changing material reality. You can't see this ground. You can't grab hold of it. But if you find yourself falling, seeking for something to grasp, you can find this ground within your own heart. It connects you to All That Is and gives you the opportunity to finally rest. "What you've lost everything, you can do anything." When you are freed from the energy of trying to grasp hold of what you want and resist what you don't want, something opens up with you, a certain mystery, a loving mystery.

If you close your eyes and touch your heart, you can feel it. It's right there. There is something we can rest in. Even if it's impermanent, we can love each other while we're here, touch into the universality of the human experience of love and loss, and rest in the beingness of how much we are loved by the Universe. This you can trust.