Grief and Loss
2023, January, Issue 29
If you have read my books and listened to my talks, you may be surprised to learn that I still experience grief. I even get teary-eyed when I hear that someone I don’t know passes away. This is not because I am attached to people or this life, it is because I see what that person meant, what their life potentiality was, what sadness fills the void when their activities cease.
Even though I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that this life is an illusion, I also know that we experience this life from a relative point of view, experiencing the beauty and joy that is life, having great opportunities when we encounter people, all people everywhere. It’s quite an honor to know someone. If you have been there when someone passes away, you really see what that honor is, the depth of having known someone, no matter what that experience may have been.
Our life is our Spiritual Practice. Some excel at living, others try to hide or disappear. It’s always an honor to know someone, no matter what their life may be like. When they pass, the void that is left behind can be truly devastating.
As a Buddhist, I know very well that all emotions are painful. This is plainly obvious when we investigate each emotion very carefully. This does not mean that emotions should be rejected, embraced or covered up. This simply means that we acknowledge the reality that emotions generate suffering in our lives. If we live with great compassion, then the pain and suffering we see in ourselves and others fills us with sadness. This is only natural.
I think that it is important to accept our own grief very lovingly. Even if you know about how a person passes through the death bardo into the light, you can be both happy for them and miss them deeply. I feel this way for Namkhai Norbu, who was my very important root teacher. Although I know very well that he is not truly gone, I also know that the person I had met is not able to be here in the same way as before. It was truly devastating for me when my master passed away. He helped bring my Spiritual Practice to fruition, and for that I am eternally grateful. So, I dedicate my work to him, I think of him every time I sit at my altar, thinking of him often throughout the day and night. I’m experiencing such tremendous grief because he was right there in my heart center when I needed him most.
It is, nevertheless, quite important to know that I’m not clinging to what has passed, my life, his life, very inspiring Spiritual Practices. I am solidly remaining present, just as I was taught, observing my life, his life, this present circumstance, realizing that he had prepared me well to go on, to carry on as a Spiritual Practitioner. This ability of my root guru to prepare me for the time I must live without him, a time when I must be my own master, according to the knowledge that I have gained, was absolutely precious.
When we view a golden sunset, it can’t last; however, we are forever changed. We can hold that beauty in our hearts for all eternity. We can remain present in absolute knowledge of the ineffable wisdom we encounter. In that, we are never alone. It’s not possible to be alone. Those who have passed are always here, now, within every moment of our lives. I pray that my root teacher smiles when he sees what I’m doing with my life.
I think having this knowledge that we are still among those who have made everything possible for us makes our Spiritual Practice that much stronger. If we know that they are with us, maybe not as who we knew when they were alive, then we can honor them by living that much better. To be that way, to know them again, means we must awaken. Everything is hidden, unless we become open to the unfathomable beyond. Then, as the light of awakening streams in, we begin to see how everything is connected, how life can be so much more radiant than we had ever thought was possible. The best way to honor those who have passed, or those we have loved dearly, is to simply allow yourself to awaken. It’s okay, you can do this.
If the idea of awakening is combined with the face of a loved one who has passed, what expression do you see? When you think of them being in the light, how do you think they feel if they know you wish to awaken for the benefit of all beings? Are you able to put them in awe of your life? If you awaken, then you awaken to what we naturally are, perfect from the beginning. It’s truly amazing.
Please receive benefit from your grief by living well. Find it within yourself to aspire to awaken. If you can awaken, and I have no doubt that you will, you will unite with all beyond, here, now.
Blessings of Light,