I am sitting in a tea shop, one of my usual haunts, listening to unfamiliar music bouncing about the red brick walls and mottled concrete floor. I swirl a cup of hot tea between my cold hands and gaze out the window toward frozen piles of snow. The vortex of liquid in front of me reminds me of the dawning of another circle of seasons. This day marks the first full day of winter, ushering in a replay of nature’s cycle of death and rebirth.
A tree experiences this temporary death by drawing sap deep within—awaiting a breath of spring to flow again. In some ways we humans also say goodbye to the life that was in anticipation of a new beginning. But saying goodbye is always bittersweet—whether it is noticing the passing of another year or experiencing the loss of a loved one.
I think it is best if our goodbyes are intentional because every one of them is about letting go of some attachment. If I watch a beloved friend pass away (or move away) in location or in metaphor, they take a piece of my heart with them and it feels like a hole resides in its place. This, of course, is only in my mind. My attachment to a particular way of relating is revealed through that hole.
If I am aware of the feelings flowing through that opening and let them die naturally, they will retreat like the sap within a tree. The attachment fades away and unconditional love reawakens. The warmth of my intention to love will allow feelings to flow again, perhaps more creatively. The object of my attachment becomes a symbol stimulating the flow of compassion, unlimited by a specific close relationship. I then experience connection with all loving relationships everywhere.
So, we say our intentional goodbyes. We die and are reborn. We notice the suffering of attachment and smile at our stupidity. The self that loves with conditions will always be a problem when it comes to letting go. When love flows without conditions we experience what Buddha meant when he said, “love the whole world like a mother loves her only child.” Our close relationships are designed to help us love the world—not to cling to an imagined ideal.
Oh, hello there.