Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
Our presumed life stories roll like movies in our heads. These stories bring our spirits to life. When we see our lives moving toward a meaningful climax, passion and purpose rise, mobilizing us to make our mark.
But these stories also can tear us down. When we see ourselves on a hopeless trek, we might give up on life itself.
Meanwhile, life cycles on. Earth and moon follow their usual paths. Tides march, birds migrate, groundhogs burrow, hawks hunt, and all take their turn on the food chain. Death sets its boundary, and life recycles. Morning breaks, rain falls, and nature’s inexorable waltz makes our stories seem like frivolous films projected in the mind’s theatre.
Stories need a time line. They depend on imagination filling it in with yesterday’s news and tomorrow’s forecast. Bogged down in a painful past, we get depressed. Fixated on a dreaded future, we get anxious.
Meditation teachers relieve misery by coaxing students from their stories into now. Attend to breath, ambient sounds, or a repeated word to arrive at the present point on the line. Accept what is. Then drop your story.
Drop your story: You might as well bet on a soft berth and then leap from a precipice into a cloud. But whether you do it now as you sit on a mat or stand in mountain pose, life will shove you off eventually.
A door slams. Someone heaves and breathes no more. A phone never rings. Loss will force the issue. Better to practice beforehand with a good teacher.
That great teacher, the Dalai Lama, discourages Westerners from leaving their religions for Buddhism and encourages us to find the meditation teachings in our own traditions. For Jew, Christian, and Muslim, this may sound naïve. We worship the God of history who enters into our communal and personal stories and leads us to a destiny full of hope and desire, the same stuff that makes fear and depression possible.
But look more closely: The Dalai Lama got it right. Biblical stories continuously throw us into unexpected chapters, revising hope’s meaning, changing destiny’s face. The beloved people move from enslavement to quest, their political order from tribal confederacy to national domination, their awaited messiah from mighty king to suffering servant. Nothing is settled, no dream fixed. The God of history insists that we hold our stories loosely.
Loss disrupts our stories. Grateful for good Buddhist guidance thus far, I part company and insist that we must find a story yet. It is God’s story, one we cannot know fully but can discover daily. This love story still unfolds.
If you drift aimlessly after loss, grab this mooring: Set your next course with love, whatever that means to you right now. Trust God to lead you on a new odyssey, or more precisely, the journey you traveled all along, unawares, to horizons more dazzling than you ever dared imagine.