• Rearrange your life's priorities and avoid getting caught up in insignificant matters?
• Attain a sense of liberation and be able to choose the things you most want to do?
• Gain an increased sense of living in the present moment and live less for the future?
• Appreciate vividly the basic facts of life, noticing and appreciating nature's glories, both great and minute?
• Communicate more deeply with loved ones?
• Let go of interpersonal fears, with less concern over security, and more willingness to take risks?
One way to get these things is to be diagnosed with cancer. Huh?! That's right, according to Irvin Yalom, the father of modern group therapy, many of his group members who are cancer patients report a significant shift in their attitudes about life and living, not to mention a huge improvement in their quality of life.
So what can we do if we don't have cancer? What about us? Well, why wait? Why not live like there's no tomorrow? What have we got to lose (that we haven’t already lost)?
Tonight’s get-together focused on grief and loss. All of us have experienced significant losses. Look at this laundry list of things we all have to lose and see how many you've lost:
Career, Childhood, Community, Desire, Direction, Faith, Freedom, Health, Hope, Identity, Independence, Individuality,
Innocence, Joy, Love, Loved Ones, Marriage, Money, Passion,
Prestige, Relationship, Respect, Self-esteem, Trust, Work
I've left a lot out, I’m sure. But aren't these enough?
In his song, “Me and Bobby McGee,” Kris Kristofferson taught us that, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Take a moment, if you haven’t already, to consider that idea. As our losses add up, as we become detached (willingly or not) from the things we might hold most dear, do we become embittered? Do we cling more tightly to what’s left? Or do we feel more freedom? And how do we define and process that freedom? Are we talking about freedom from the illusion that what we have is what we are? I think so. But what do you think?
To learn more about how this now famous bit of wisdom came into our world, read this:
The Zen master, Tyler Durden, from “Fight Club,” teaches us that, “It’s only after we have lost everything that we are free to do anything.”
Speaking of Zen, do you remember the parable about the monk who was chased off a cliff by a tiger? The monk caught hold of a shrub which grew out of the sheer cliff face. As he clung there, he looked down at the valley below. The hundred-foot drop would certainly kill him, so letting go was not a viable option. But if he climbed back up, he would become the tiger’s supper. Also, not a satisfactory outcome. So what did he do?
Before I finish the story, I’ll remind you that the life of a Buddhist monk requires that they give up almost everything for this holy life. They are allowed to possess a robe, a begging bowl (from which they can also eat and drink), and a screen to remove any insects from their water, so as not to harm any sentient being. What did this monk have left to lose except his existence in this cosmic plane? What do you have left to lose? And what will you do when more losses inevitably come? Only you can answer these questions. But as we've discussed many times, it’s not the answers that matter as much as the struggling with the questions.
Here is what the monk did. And you will probably not be surprised, because this lesson is about perception. We have a choice as to what we perceive as "ours" and what we know we can never truly "possess." Therefore, we have the dreadful power to decide what cannot be taken away from us, ever. The monk gazed upon the blossoms on the bush he was clinging to and, with great appreciation, he thought, “How beautiful!”