Friday, 14 October 2011

I am the man who has everything. . .

Dad used to say that - usually in response to the question "Dad, what would you like for your birthday?" For a long time I didn't understand what he meant. He certainly was not a wealthy man in the conventional sense.

And sometimes he did things that really bugged me (doesn't every son say that about his father?). Like this time I went to a lot of bother to get him a present that I thought he'd really like. He was delighted and delivered the expected hug (there's a clue) - and then gave the damn thing away to someone the following week. How little I understood about giving. And its complement, letting go.

In his book "Sacred Journey - spiritual wisdom for times of transition", Mike Riddell observes:

'releasing our grip on those things which we hold to be precious is both painfully difficult and absolutely essential to making progress on the journey of the soul'

This is the challenge of detachment - both from material and non-material possessions.

First, from material possessions: easy to understand, hard to practice; the philosopher would suggestracticing by making the following statement:
"I am not my (insert here the biggest brightest baubles in your life - home, car, boat, clothes etc)").

But the second, non-material possessions, presents even tougher challenges. Wisdom suggests, for example, that we let go of both treasures and pains in our life.

Kalil Gibran ("The Prophet" and other books) is certainly sympathetic to this outlook; for example, his advice to parents about their children "from the first moment they are born, you must begin to let go". He argues that the best measure of success of a parent is when they give that final hoosh and see their child expand their wings and take flight away from them (they may well return but that is completely their decision). If your children are among the most precious treasures in you life (and they are for me), it seems counterintuitive to encourage them to 'take flight'. But that's the only thing to do.

Riddell adds a challenge about letting go of pain:

'surely we will experience pain from time to time, but the force of it should be allowed to flow through us and away; we have to learn to open ourselves to the pain. The common mistakes are either to try to avoid it, or to hold on to it and build our lives around it.'

Letting go also means discovering the real way to give: without any expectation of a return, be it a hug or something more tangible. For me, this is one of the key aspects of the Buddhist idea of 'lovingkindness'. The act of giving itself is all the giver should be concerned with.

Maybe Dad was wiser than I thought? Maybe he set a standard and I just couldn't see it?

Irritating the way Dads do that?

1 comment:

  1. Bob

    Delighted you got into the spirit of Mike Riddell! Links very powerfully to the piece in the book on Happines by Dalai Lama about the distintion between pain (sometimes a necessary protection for us) and suffering (how we respond and deal with the pain. Gibran also speaks of parents launching their childran as arrows out into the world - we can give them a good start but we cannot predict where they will land - even if its Bhutan! Namaste! Ciaran