April 30, 2024

The Buddhist Quote that Became my Daily Mantra.

When I was packing away the newborn clothes that my son had outgrown, I started sobbing.

He was only three months old when I was alone in my bedroom, folding his tiny onesies.

I couldn’t understand why I got so emotional. I felt like keeping a few ones, which I actually placed in and out of the drawer many times before I put myself back together.

When I come to think about it, they were just clothes and I could easily let them go. But I couldn’t let go of the memories they had held. Putting them away meant putting away every second I had spent with my son, every breastmilk stain I had washed, and every mental image I had of him in them.

Putting them away meant change; it meant him growing up, and I, as a new mama, was not ready for that.

It doesn’t matter how many more Buddhist courses I may study or meditation sessions I may take; deep inside, it will always be hard for me to accept change—and I’ve struggled with this for most of my adult life.

I sobbed on airplanes when leaving new countries and at bus stations when parting ways with people. I sobbed on mountaintops and hiking trails, and with teary eyes I glanced at sceneries that I may never see again. I stare at my loved ones and think to myself that one day I won’t hear their voice ever again and the mere idea of not having them around makes me choke back tears.

Change, in whatever form it may come, is ugly. It hurts. Even if the next thing looks better, the old will always look more appealing. It drags us toward it like a magnet, and even when it no longer makes sense, we may still want it badly.

We can’t blame ourselves for wanting something that’s too familiar and comforting. Ultimately, we’re all looking for happiness…and happiness can only be found where certainty and security exist.

And so we resist everything that may threaten our “known”—even if it’s something silly, like packing away a bunch of newborn onesies.

In the last decade or so, Buddhism has brought me to my senses. I have gained a better understanding of inconsistency and its inevitable prevalence. I have finally accepted that I, a spiritual being in a human form, can’t resist what’s meant to die—be it a moment in time, a place, an object, or a person.

Life, as the Buddhists believe, is constantly undergoing birth, death, and rebirth; it’s the nature of things. Why do we resist it? Because opening our hearts to change and letting things take their natural flow causes us so much sadness, so much suffering. The experience could be problematic—traumatic even.

Crying over my son’s newborn clothes and wanting to keep them was way easier for me than packing them away. Even the simple act of placing them in and out of the drawer and pacing the bedroom without knowing what to do was actually comforting. It was my way of holding on to the memories and the tiny version of my son.

What I still haven’t mentioned, though, is that packing them away felt surprisingly liberating.

Pema Chödrön says,

“When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment.” 

If we want to relax into this present moment, we must be ready for whatever instability it may bring. It may get ugly and messy and it may not be what we have anticipated. But as Chödrön says, struggling against life will only cause us more suffering.

That said, our problems right now are our opportunities for growth. What’s unsettling us today will liberate us tomorrow.

So let things be.

They will be.

~

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