In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?
~ Jack Kornfield
We might differ on what matters the most in the end, but these three little questions (often mistakenly attributed to the Buddha) strike me as a helpful place to begin. When I look at my life as a whole I can see that in my life, your life, this human thing, what matters matters! Even if we have to acknowledge that places, movements, times, actions, words along the way didn’t matter, or mattered in a way that is disturbing.
How well did you love? This could easily be the only question, couldn’t it? I want to love well. I try to love well. Loving others is important to me. I know how it feels to be loved. I know how I depend on the love of others. I want to continue and extend that web of existence in a good, positive way. I can look at the way I have loved–everyone from my most beloveds to people encountered casually along the way and know–here and there, I have loved well, and here and there, I have not. That is humbling, and it brings me back to myself, to ponder the question.
How fully did you live? There is some evidence that Kornfield’s words were based on those by Danielle Marie in a 1992 book in which she wonders: how much did you love and appreciate yourself, your body, and your own special gift? When I think of living well, I immediately am drawn to those places in my life where I have taken risk, stepped out, dared to do things that in some way depended on a self-awareness and a trust in myself, my ideas, my gifts. Living well also involves boundaries that I draw which protect. It’s often hard to know where boundary drawing and self-exploration meet and separate, but it’s pretty clear that they are both important for living well.
How deeply did you let go? I hope I get a good bit more time in my life–for many reasons, but this question certainly points to one. I can be tenacious about things that matter to me. I can be most stubborn about almost anything that I feel attached to. Lines blur. What are the lines between holding a vision that my own life calls me to hold (perhaps because no one else is holding it or until others show up to help) and the wisdom of letting go of a thing? Both can be important, but it’s not always clear to me. What is clear is that I am much more practiced at holding on than letting go. I can intuit the wisdom of letting go, deeply, but I don’t do it well. That is humbling, and it brings me back to these questions.
I want to walk with them for a while.