Departures: Spiritual Practice

From Latin and Old French, our word “departure” literally means a “dividing away from” something or someone.  In both Old French and in English, as early as the 15th century, it became a euphemism for death.  We refer to the “dearly departed;” we make vows  “until death us depart.”   We might refer to our “point of departure” as the idea that allows us to talk about a special interest or about something else entirely.

Buddhist thought and practice reminds us that human suffering results from a sense of separation from things, people and ideas and our never ending attempts to cling to them. When we anticipate separations, we often spontaneously evoke various feelings, ideas and even physical states in reaction.  The reactions become our suffering.  As I consider various departures that I have experienced, I find that I have some options–when I choose to remember them.

As I approach a departure–the inevitable separation from someone, some thing or even an idea that I have held close, I can choose to grieve and mourn the loss.  By entering into my grief, I allow it to take me through the sure transformation that the grieving process brings.

I may allow the departure  to remind me of what I have enjoyed with this person, thing or idea.  The recall of joy allows me to experience deep gratitude for what has been, what has touched and changed me.

I may choose to see this departure as part of the rising and falling, coming and going, leaving and arriving, of many things today and simply become a witness to it all.  As witness, I not only see that this thing is departing but that another is also arriving.

Noticing our departures is spiritual practice. We can consciously choose to notice departures–tiny ones, overwhelming ones and all those in between.  By choosing to notice, we also begin to choose how we will engage them: with grief, gratitude or simple witness. None is right or wrong.  Each allows us a spiritual practice that draws us more deeply into life and its living, today.  Each departure that we engage as spiritual practice prepares us for the next.

Bob Patrick

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