I was recently bowled over by a particularly strong worldly wind—loss with regard to an opportunity I had been working towards for years. (A writing project I had poured much literal tears into). The way things fell apart wasn’t a surprise per se. Anyone with clear vision would have seen it coming. But I didn’t see it, and it hit me. Hard.
Rather than open my heart to those around me, I put on a tough face, even though on the inside I was shredded. I can’t pinpoint many times in my life where I would say I was ever depressed, but now I know what getting close to rock bottom feels like. I lost the will to create. I lost the will to try. This wasn’t dispassion; this was defeat.
“Loss arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, & subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it has come to be. His mind remains consumed with the loss.” —AN 8:6
Of course, in retrospect I was setting myself up for defeat. I heaped all my hope for security and well-being into something inconstant, unstable, subject to change, and—well—change it did. As anyone who builds a sandcastle knows, one day their fortress of mud will be washed away. That’s the nature of the world, but—through ignorance—I rebelled against it.
Somewhere in my mind I knew all of this, but the part of me that wanted to relish in self-pity and loathing won over. I can’t lie… a big part of it is still there. But now I’m turning my mind to the Dhamma and peeling myself off the floor.
Over and over the Venerable Ones remind me that the world is swept away, so to put my strongest efforts into things that have a lasting impact. My projects still matter, but integrity, generosity, virtue, and all the qualities of mind that I actually have at least some control over… those will make the most difference. Then when another gust of wind comes, I’ll be a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser… until I get to the point where the worldly winds won’t affect me at all.
“Now, loss arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, & subject to change.’ He discerns it as it actually is. His mind does not remain consumed with the loss… He is released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.”—AN 8:6