Lately I’ve been spending time with a dear friend who is suffering from what she describes as the Holiday Blues. She doesn’t want to shop, decorating the house is a chore, and she’s pretty much getting by on her practiced smile and antidepressants. She’s sad. Her lover is gone. Being sad this time of year sucks. The Christmas music, the crowds, the energy of the season is especially heartbreaking for those not really feeling it. I get that. She’s not the only one in pain. Last week a friend of mine told me her dear friend and tennis partner surrendered to bone cancer. In the news, a drunk driver in Redondo Beach plowed through a crowd at a church and killed 4 people. All these are reminders that the holidays aren’t happy for everyone. In fact, I would argue they are more difficult.
Yesterday I saw Ivy-league educated former monk and leading American Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield on Super Soul Sunday. He spoke about the importance of staying present. He said our thoughts about the future are only thoughts and our thoughts about the past do not matter because they are past. Life is being lived right now, with every breath. He reminded us that if we live too much in the past or the future, we miss life. At the end of the show Oprah featured the Tibetan practice of creating intricate sand mandalas that often take hundreds of hours to create and then get wiped away upon completion as a reminder of the Buddhist principle of non- attachment.
This reminded me- I recently bought myself a Buddha board. I was playing with the one on display at Pulp, my favorite stationary/gift shop on La Brea and Beverly. A Buddha Board is like a chalkboard, but instead of chalk, a Japanese paintbrush is dipped in water. You can doodle any word or symbol on the board and then watch it fade until it disappears as the water dries. Its purpose, like the sand mandala, is to keep you present and to remind you to stay unattached because the reality is, nothing in this life is permanent. Not jobs, not lovers, not wealth. Not art or wishes. Not moms or dads or sisters or brothers. Not even countries! Who remembers Prussia? Anyway, everything is in constant motion, constant evolution going somewhere or returning, expanding or shrinking, growing or dying. Every day granted is a blessing in this life. It’s a privilege to live another day. It’s one day closer to death.
Maybe Shakespeare had a Buddha Board….
I’m getting good at drawing designs on the board. Each stroke of my wet little brush looks like effortless art. I create beautiful doodles and immediately feel a longing for it as I know I can’t get attached. It will be gone soon. This analogy fits life too.
When you spend time marinating in memories of days long past with a lover who is long gone you waste the time you are in now. Memories are like a beautiful Buddha Board masterpiece that one is clinging too even as it fades, going, going, gone. Instead of standing in the grace of love, or settling into gratitude for having loved and been loved that way, we resist, cry, compromise, and bargain. Then one day, inevitably, he or she is completely absent. No text or call or email. No Facebook message, or subliminal Pinterest post. No tweet, yelp message or Instagram like. You are left with a blank slate. Sometimes it is years before you can appreciate the freedom and beauty of a blank slate and accept the gift of starting again. It’s easier to cling to memories, missed opportunities, and wallow in regret. I get that too. These feelings are real and tangible. You can physically feel the edges and cracks of disappointment and longing in your heart. Even as I write this, I can feel the scars on my own heart start to swell and tear again because the wounds from a lost soul mate are deep and easily refreshed. But then, mid tear, I remember gratitude. As should you. Most people never experience a love like that, but you did, or you wouldn’t be in the pain of grief, bitterness and nostalgia. Remember that even though you know how the story ends, you would still jump in and do it all over again, just to feel his eyes on you one more time. For there are other loves, but never the same love twice.
Chin up darling. Storms don’t last forever. xo Dre