Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happiness Amidst Loss

"True happiness comes in moments when you feel right there, completely present." ~Pema Chödrön.

All of us will suffer loss in our lifetime, whether from death, divorce, or distance of a loved one. The loss of someone we love, by whatever cause, is difficult to bear. In fact, we've all observed people who haven’t borne their loss very well and never completely recovered. It is a sad thing to see.

People come in and out of our lives; it is part of the human condition: pleasure and pain; love and hate; life and death. These are all common dualities in this physical world and to a degree--these dualities are foreign to our very spiritual nature, which comes from a world of oneness. The question is… how do we cope with losses associated with this physical world from a spiritual perspective? How do we deal with the pain in a spiritual manner?

First, we must accept that there is no constructive escape. Any measure of escape will just delay or destroy the healing process. In attempting to escape our pain, we stop growing. When we’re not growing, we’re perishing—a slow, painful death. Thus, many find destructive ways to numb their senses: excess sleep, television, internet or other media, alcohol, drugs, and shallow relationships.

This is all very relevant for me, as I went through a loss recently. A cherished romantic relationship ended in October of 2008. I went through the usual phases of grief: shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, and depression. I’m moving into acceptance, though I have occasional relapses into one phase or another.

In moving into acceptance, one thing that I have learned is the value of mindfulness, which is being fully present with your current circumstances. As Pema Chödrön has said, "True happiness comes in moments when you feel right there, completely present." I have also come to learn that happiness is not something we find in a relationship, but rather is something we share in a relationship.

Although it’s almost cliché, I have learned that happiness is not some destination off in the distance, but rather the daily journey. The journey is now and not some far off place, time, or person. The journey is today, even in this very moment. And if I am constantly trying to escape this moment, there is no happiness. To live fully in each moment, to engage life completely, to smell the scents around you, to hear the richness of the sounds of the universe in motion, to feel the textures beneath your hands and feet: this is where we find happiness.

I love the person with whom I was in a relationship. I love her as intensely today as I did when we were together; but, we’re not together any longer and there is distance between us. In fact, we don’t have much contact. She’s not in my present, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it—except continue to love her from a distance, not with hope of reconciliation--but, rather with compassion for both of us. I can accept our separation as permanent, and yet—I can love her anyway.

I don’t need to escape from my love for her; nor do I need to escape the pain of separation. I can be present with all of my emotions, and be compassionate towards my own self in the process. I can be present with my current circumstances as a single person and be completely happy with this journey that I am on. Life is a wonderful journey that so many lose far too early. I am grateful for the time I have here on this earth and resolve to fully engage this world I am in. Won’t you join me?

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware." --Henry Miller


  1. I want to avoid "I feel your pain" and other cliches. I will do so. It is just short of a year and a half and you are mindful of the compassionate energy, probably on a daily basis, that this relationship draws from you (and it is in this sense you are still in relationship with this person). This aids in your healing and is evidence that you have not shut out your world. Acknowledging that there are still pangs of pain that still may drive you to selfish escape is just as important.

    Nothing ever heals completely. I'm not sure anything is meant to. I hope our efforts are more about letting our wounds be sacred guideposts; fertile ground where compassion and intergrity and empathy reside.

    My challenge has always been to accept that no relationship or journey or amount of healing or act of forgiveness will ever make me complete - no matter what amount of energy I put into it. Though it is necessary for my spirit to continue all these things, I will never possess them to the point of being fulfilled. I just hate that.

    You are quite a uniqe human.
    My compliments to Your Creator.


  2. Kelly, thank you for your comments. Your words are very encouraging!

  3. I think we never forget any of our loves. I truely see each one as an experience as a stone in my path!
    You heart will turn and open to another in time.