Fully Human

I don’t recall exactly where I heard it, although it was undoubtedly in one of the countless dharma talks I’ve listened to throughout the years, but here’s my take on the definition of Buddhist thought that has continued to resonate most profoundly with me. It goes like this: A friend, family member, or lover—someone for whom we care a great deal—comes to pay us a visit, and when the time inevitably arrives for us to part ways and say goodbye, we simply, in our own time, allow ourselves to feel whatever it is we feel before compassionately getting on with our lives. If it’s sadness, we go ahead and feel it. We cry if need be. It’s okay. There’s no need to suppress it in the name of being a “good Buddhist.” We accept ourselves just as we are in the moment—fully human.

Yes, we’ve read books on Buddhism and intellectually grasped how everything is in a constant state of change, in flux, but the simple truth is that we cherish this person and their loving presence, which, at least temporarily, assuages our loneliness. So, why wouldn’t it hurt to see them go, right? Therefore, as heart-wrenching as it may be, I wonder if our work in a situation such as this might be to practice gently holding whatever it is we’re experiencing emotionally, a type of grief in this case, while simultaneously honoring our understanding of reality, which, time and time again, reminds us of the transient nature of things. As poet Ranier Maria Rilke put it so beautifully many years ago, “Is not impermanence the very fragrance of our days?”