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Waking Up Alone
changes; nothing lasts. In matters of the heart this can be a hard
truth to wake up to. KAREN MAEZEN MILLER on what to do after the love
was the toothbrush that told me. Alone and overlooked in the emptied
medicine chest, it was one of the few things my departed lover had left
behind. When I found it, I knew with certainty something Iíd been
denying for some time.
It was over.
truth, our relationship had been over for longer than Iíd wanted to
believe, but in beginnings and endings, one party can lag behind the
other on the uptake. If the toothbrush was my messenger, what was his?
Perhaps the time I kicked his suitcase to the curb? For years after the
breakup, I would forget that part in the telling of the story. Everyone,
after all, tells stories their own way, from their own perspective.
by choice or circumstance, by the fleet seasons of romance or the final
curtain of death, love ends. At least the love that is a story
ends. And when that happens, what are we left with? A passage we might
otherwise never have dared to takeóa passage through denial, disbelief,
and despair, through rage and madness. A portal, beyond delusive
fairytales and melodrama, into a state of wakeful grace that is true
love is what is left behind when the story of love ends. But it only
looks like the end. Make it through one ending, and you might change
your mind about all endings. That is the miracle cure, the ultimate
healing, which is left behind on an empty shelf.
When Form Empties
Form is exactly emptiness. Emptiness exactly form. ó HEART SUTRA
Practicing Buddhists may regularly read these crucial lines from the Heart Sutra,
said to be the most concise and complete statement of the true nature
of reality. As we study the words, we may think we understand them.
Leaving aside any spiritual insight and reasoning solely on the basis of
scientific fact, we can easily see the truth of impermanence.
Everything changes. Nothing lasts, not even feelings. Itís obvious, and
yet in matters of the heart, it can be a hard thing to wake up to.
must have been about thirteen years old when my mother hung up the
phone one evening, turned, and told me that my uncle had come home from
work at lunch that day, walked into the kitchen and told my aunt that he
didnít love her, had never loved her, and was leaving right that
minute. Since then, Iíve heard of many parting scenes with a similar
script, and even uttered a variation of it myself. But, at such a young
age, to hear the words that shattered a family and dissolved its story
made the ground give way.
we notice it or not, the ground is always giving way, disappearing into
the vast chasm of impermanence and inconceivability, where our
understanding of a line or two of ancient text doesnít begin to reach.
To suffer a loss or heartbreak is to live the irrevocable truth through
which oneís own wisdom awakens. Itís the hard way to wisdom, but itís
the only way, and the path is well worn. When the love story ends, take
the path that lies before you, and it will always lead you out of
Not What You Think
The thought of enlightenment is the mind that sees into impermanence. ó DOGEN ZENJI
broken heart can seem like an undignified or even trivial way to start a
spiritual transformation, but itís a powerful one, as the life of the
great Dogen Zenji attests. His mother died when he was but a boy of
seven, and some scholars trace his prodigiousness as the revitalizer of
thirteenth-century Zen to that early event, when his mind was seized by
experience a subtle spiritual awakening the moment we see that life
goes on, even after our life has been ripped apart by loss. However
unimaginable, life goes on even when we donít recognize it as our life.
Itís absent of the familiar people, places, or things we previously
used to navigate it, and itís without the tenuous threads we used to
bind it together. When a relationship so central to our life proves
unreliable, we might wonder what is real.