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December 8, 2019

The Buddha showed me it was Safe to Let Go, to Let Things Die.

Grasshoppers give me anxiety.

They are impulsive, unpredictable little creatures. I don’t find them particularly cute or beautiful, like ladybugs or butterflies. I don’t want them to jump on me.

Grasshoppers scare the bejeezus out of me. I don’t like them much and never have.

A month ago, I saw a grasshopper clinging to the screen of my porch. There had been a freeze the night before. Despite my initial repulsion, I felt sad for the pitiful little insect. Soon, it would die. I wanted to bring it inside. Perhaps I could house it in a jar or something. I couldn’t let the poor creature suffer, even if he was a tad horrid, being a grasshopper and all.

I try to save lots of things. I save injured squirrels. I save spiders. I save lives for a living. As a kid, I got grounded for throwing some clams my parents dug up for dinner back in the sea. I tried to resuscitate flattened dead toads I would find in the street.

And now, I try to resuscitate dead love affairs.

Three months ago, I was at the tail end of another failed relationship. This was different than the string of boyfriends and inconsequential shallow relationships that I had apathetically participated in. This was my best friend.

The problem is, like many of us, l struggle with love. It is a contest, a performance. Love is a school assignment where I must make honors. Love is about being perfect so that no one will abandon me. Love is a traumatized, scared sh*tless little girl who will do anything for your approval. Love is hiding behind a façade. Love is no reference point or secure base. Love is over-functioning while pretending you don’t care. Love cannot let go. Love is terrifying. Love is dangerous.

Love is absolutely none of these things. When love actually arrives, I will promptly slam the door in its face and run the other way.

A few weeks after my relationship ended, I was on a plane to Thailand.

The Temple of the Reclining Buddha sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The massive statue represents the dying Buddha reclining on his right side, a serene and smiling expression on his face.

Like the Reclining Buddha, grasshoppers offer no resistance to death. There is no clinging, no internal conflict to what is, nor wishing for what is not. The seasons change, the grasshoppers yield to the cold and die. All is well. All is at peace, all is at ease. All is as it should be.

The Buddha showed me it was safe to let go, to let things die.

The truth is, it isn’t the loss that causes us to suffer, its our ego’s attachment to it. What we perceive as loss of love and rejection is simply that—a perception. It is the actions we take to avoid feeling the pain that cause so much suffering. That is not to say we are to be stoic and unfeeling. Quite the contrary, when we move closer to that hurt, that sense of nothingness brings us closer to our hearts. If we allow our feelings of loss to unfold, if we allow space, the universe comes in and fills it with love.

In his teachings, Eckhart Tolle once noted that many people who had experienced severe loss, such as a that of a child, had a profound sense of peace. As a nurse I have observed this as well, particularly with my patients at the end of life. Many have a serenity and grace to them that is baffling.

It is in our acceptance of death, of the timeless essence of ourselves and other beings in their formlessness, that we find the sacred.

Loss hurts. Loss compounded by loss after loss f*cking hurts. Sometimes we can become so scared that we abandon our own hearts. The beautiful thing is that this heartbreak can be a beautiful opening to healing.

There was so much heartbreak begging to be released. Not just of my failed love affair, but of broken marriages and families, of young friends in caskets, of fathers who can’t love, of abusive ex-partners, of kids who tease and bully, of feeling unworthy and lost and alone.

I cried in the sea. I cried through Thai massages and in Shalas (a gathering place for students to practice yoga). I cried through hip openers and heart openers. I wrote letters to the scared and abused eight-year-old inside of me. I got my ass into therapy. I emerged more open, more vulnerable, more loving, more messy, more still, more present. I forgave myself. I forgave my lover and saw how he was struggling too. I returned to my mat. I returned home to my heart.

There is no other place to be.

It is now winter. The grasshopper has since passed. Things have turned as they should; all is well, all is at ease. All is as it should be. I feel spring, I feel lightness, I feel peace.

For in all of this, true love remains—for the seasons, for best friends, for our fathers, for the grasshoppers.

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Joanna Engman  |  Contribution: 2,085

author: Joanna Engman

Image: Max Pixel

Editor: Catherine Monkman