You will lose everything.
Your money, your power, your fame, your success, perhaps even your memory.
Your looks will go.
Loved ones will die.
Your own body will eventually fall apart.
Everything that seems permanent is absolutely impermanent and will be smashed.
Experience will gradually, or not so gradually, strip away everything that it can strip away.
Waking up means facing this reality with open eyes and no longer turning away.
Right now, we stand on sacred and holy ground.
For that which will be lost has not yet been lost, and realising this is the key to unspeakable joy.
Whoever or whatever is in your life right now has not yet been taken away from you.
This may sound obvious but really knowing it is the key to everything, the why and how and wherefore of existence.
Impermanence has already rendered everything and everyone around you so deeply holy and significant and worthy of your heartbreaking gratitude.
Loss has already transfigured your life into an altar.
– Jeff Foster
I know now that, over the years, my own cries that life is unfair, have come from the inescapable pain of living, and these cries, while understandable, have always diverted me from feeling my way through the pain of my breakage into the re-formation of my life. Somehow, crying “Unfair” has always kept me stuck in what hurts.
I offer what has surprised me in my pain: that life is not fair, but unending in its capacity to change us; that compassion is fair and feeling is just: and that we are not responsible for all that befalls us, only for how we receive it and for how we hold each other up along the way.
When you feel you have no more to give, keep your heart open just a while longer, because this is when the deepest gift we have is about to show itself. This is the foundational side of a paradox that can’t be explained: as we’re humbled over time to honor our very real limitations, the light we carry is ever more exposed through those limitations. And just when we’re at the end of what we know, the soul’s lips are ready to meet the world. As we honor our frailties, we’re also asked to trust in the inexhaustible Source the heart is threshold to. While the container we are can wear down and weaken, the Spirit we carry is indestructible. I know this because I’ve watched the life-force burst from those being born and I’ve bowed to the tenderness seeping from others as they die. I know this because I’ve almost died myself, and have felt the life-force burst and seep through me. I’ve been roughly rearranged by life until the face beneath my face, that can hide nothing, finally met the world. Once the light we carry is felt and known, a covenant is awakened within us to keep that inexhaustible light in view. This is a marriage of the deepest kind between our soul and the life that carries that soul while here on Earth.
So, let us reflect on what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that. The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities—warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful—happier.
~Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama XIV
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Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still knows bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
Man’s Search for Meaning
Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn
to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.
When you doubt the world
look at the undivided darkness
look at Wheeler Peak
cliffs like suspended prayers
contemplate the cerulean
the gleaming limestone
the frozen shades
look at the bristlecone pine
a labyrinth to winding wonders
listen to the caves
remember the smell of sagebrush
after a thunderstorm
that Lexington Arch
is a bridge of questions
in the solitude of dreams
distances disturb desire
to deliver a collision of breaths
the desert echoes
in this dark night sky
stars reveal the way
a heart can light a world.
About This Poem
“I’m an urbanite but when I started teaching at the low-residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College and discovered the numinous openness of Nevada, something unnamed untangled me. Standing under the crisp golden-red light then the infinite dark at Great Basin for the first time felt like being in the middle of my heart and asking, where do I go from here? Where does one go after they’ve lived wars, been too close to death’s shadows, and then sees a version of heaven? Can we give ourselves permission to inhale its glory without betraying those who couldn’t flee, or didn’t survive? Perhaps we are meant to see such wonder to inform us of how beauty resists.”