Friday, August 13, 2010

Hard Wired Against Loss

Exploring The Flip Side Of Mother's Love.

My oldest daughter has been packing for several days. She is leaving home, again, this time for grad school. Heaviness in the heart has been creeping in, slowly. Tonight, I am typing with a tight throat, and the heat from grief. I know about impermanence, that's what practice is about, isn't it? Breath, thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations, cascading versions of myself, events, come and go, and I am ok with it all. In fact, I rather like the constant ebbs and flows of life. With one exception.

The loss of a loved one, even a temporary one, is an experience I cannot get used to. With it, comes the great fear, that of losing them forever.  I read the Buddha's Fourth Rememberance, that says "All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.", and I think to myself, "That's a hard one to take. Not there yet, and may never get there." I also realize anxiety has come to grab me by the throat, and to deliver a hard hit to the stomach. Anxiety is a product of disturbed mind, to let got of.

This is what happens when one is hard wired for bonding with one's offspring. The fear of loss also comes with the evolution package, and requires no less than Buddha's strongest medicine, in order  for  it to be effectively dealt with. I think of the elderly mother I saw at Zen Hospice last weekend. I remember the profound sadness in her eyes, as she sat, helpless, at the bedside of her daughter who no longer wanted to eat. And I can only now begin to feel the immensity of her grief.

Using all of what life brings as an opportunity to practice, and stretch the heart. 


  1. Those are some powerful feeling Marguerite - thanks for sharing.

    Grief is such a strong emotion and one that I've felt many times. I consider myself a very empathetic person and just reading the last paragraph and story of the mother at the zen hospice brought up feelings of grief and sadness. It's so tricky pin-pointing the feelings though. Is it sadness, love, fear of loss....all of the above? Maybe grief is such a powerful emotion because it's one of the 'truest' reminders of just how impermanent everything is.

  2. Such depth of teaching here. I remember when my daughter moved away, that sense of loss seemed unconsolable. Tiny things used to bring it up. Sometimes I would stand washing dishes and just cry. And of course as time went on my sadness waned. But you get a real taste of the depth of attachment and get to practice letting go. It is such a mixed bag because you are happy to see them spread their wings. Much metta to you!

  3. Dear Marguerite, much metta and karuna for you and all those experiencing loss and loss to come. Richard Shankman's sutta study on Friday emphasized how we may intellectually know impermanence, but we don't live our lives in alignment with that reality... It's interesting how my own experience with my mom points that out to me over and over. To see her own pain and suffering arising over the realization that her life is coming to an end evokes that quivering of the heart in me. And then, working with what is this like, what is it to be the one who feels sadness and loss and to be brought back to now - where death is not yet - where life is still to be lived - where if we are present and can let go of the papanca of the mind, all is well in this very moment.

  4. Thank you, SmilingHeart. I actually hesitated to write this post. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Nate, all of it.

    You may appreciate these words from the Visakha Sutta:

    The sorrows, lamentations,
    the many kinds of suffering in the world,
    exist dependent on something dear.
    They don't exist
    when there's nothing dear.
    And thus blissful and sorrowless
    are those for whom nothing
    in the world is dear anywhere.
    So one who aspires
    to be stainless and sorrowless
    shouldn't make anything
    in the world dear

    The grief, the sadness, the love, I will take. Not so sure about concomitant anxiety . . .

  6. Carole (ZenDot), yes, I agree, this represents a great (probably the biggest of all?) opportunity in letting go practice. For that, I am very grateful. Life as a householder does offer some great teachings that way . . .

  7. Lori (dharmadancer), I actually had you in mind also as I wrote this . . .

    And yes, we can read all the teachings we want, and never really get down to the roots of suffering. Nothing can replace feeling the whole pool of suffering, and holding that feeling within gaze of gentle awareness.

    Life, death, and the web of human connections. Such raw material for opening our heart, and finding unconditioned happiness.

    With much metta,


  8. Attachment to the ones we love especially our children is a hard one for me to let go of as well. Like you said, no matter how much we practice or how much we read when it comes down to the actual act of detachment, only at that moment will we know how we will truly respond. I love watching my children grow, but know deep inside that one day I'm going to have to let go. At this moment in my life I am not ready and I can only hope that when the time comes I do not cause suffering for them because of my inabilities. Thank you for sharing this, there are so many that can relate. I wish all the best for you and yours. My love and metta to you.

    Michael _/|\_

  9. Thank you, Michael. Just the simple fact that you are aware, is already a great gift to your children.