Here’s the confronting truth about life that’s hard to avoid, but easy to ignore. You’re going to lose everything and everyone you care about in life.
Before we talk about what that second lesson is, I want you to read a poem that illustrates what I’m taking about in a very beautiful and succinct way, because this truth is what makes gratitude a profound and precious practice.
I’ve tucked this piece, written by a mindfulness teacher, Jeff Foster, into my files and pull it out whenever I want to remember the power of gratitude.
You Will Lose Everything
“You will lose everything. Your money, your power, your fame, your success, perhaps even your memories. Your looks will go. Loved ones will die. Your body will fall apart. Everything that seems permanent is impermanent and will be smashed. Experience will gradually, or not so gradually, strip away everything that it can strip away.
Waking up means facing this reality with open eyes and no longer turning away.
But right now, we stand on sacred and holy ground, for that which will be lost has not yet been lost, and realizing this is the key to unspeakable joy.
Whoever or whatever is in your life right now has not yet been taken away from you. This may sound trivial, obvious, like nothing, but really it is the key to everything, the why and how and wherefore of existence.
Impermanence has already rendered everything and everyone around you so deeply holy and significant and worthy of your heartbreaking gratitude.
Loss has already transfigured your life into an altar.”
There are two steps to take away from this understanding of gratitude:
1. The first step is to acknowledge the unequivocal, inescapable, truth that loss is part of life.
We live our entire lives experiencing loss. We’re forced to let go every day. The sandwich we were hoping for that’s no longer on the menu, relationships end, places we call home change, our bodies age. Ultimately death requires us to let go of those we love, and in the end, life itself. This is the very tender truth we all share.
2. The second step is to hold that truth in our hearts while also being awake to what is present in your life right now. All that you fear of losing tomorrow is in your life today.
You have the pleasure of those people, those animals, those things, those privileges, those places right now!
If we allow it to, mortality teaches us how to live fully today, knowing that change is inevitable and unstoppable. Rather than fighting against life itself, we can remember the impermanence of life and make gratitude our guide.
When you allow enough room for both of these truths to coexist, gratitude will break your heart open and transform your life.
Let me close by saying, how grateful I am for you, my dear readers.
You give me reason to write and teach about the things that matter to me the most — love, relationships and intimacy.
This post was previously published on Love, Sex, and Desire and republished on Medium.
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