“All is flux, all is change, nothing is permanent…”
Some lessons of the Buddha are harder to take than others. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. After what had started gloriously, our summer quickly became one of the most challenging times of our lives, with death(s), injuries, and serious illness throughout the extended family. Then last week we dropped our son Ben off at school for his Freshman year at Indiana University. Yesterday he walked to his first classes and thus started the next chapter of his life, and ours. Ben is our only child.
After loading in all his stuff, and setting up his room, we headed downstairs to go to lunch, and then, standing in the middle of the bustling food court, the emotion of the moment hit me in the center of my being, and the tears started. I had to leave and made it to the trees just outside Forest Hall. Strangely enough, it felt right. Ben and Julie came outside and gave me a hug.
To write about this threatens, even invites, a charge of sentimentality. In fact, taking your kid to college is the very definition of “HappySad”. On one hand, you are very proud of their achievement to get here, but on the other, they are taking their first and very giant step toward leaving you and pursuing the rest of their lives. This is what we signed up for.
The first night after we returned home it was as if the nature of reality had shifted, not unlike a psychedelic drug experience, less the euphoria and more the odd/unstable part. Yet, isn’t change the very phenomenon that provides the bedrock for all of the peak experiences of our lives? Yes, change is painful sometimes. Buddha insight reveals, however, that there can be “no flower without the mud”, just as their can be no wisdom and understanding without delusion and suffering. We exist in this ongoing impermanence, and buddha nature is being mindful and practicing compassion, with ourselves and with those around us. Embracing this existential, a priori condition is the very basis of any meaning we pursue and cultivate. Change, then, is the dynamic by which we are able to realize new horizons and pursue new passions.
“Reach out with joy towards distances that have not yet been touched”
Rainer Maria Rilke
The sun just came out and the day is unfolding. While we were in Bloomington I picked up a journal called the “Productivity Planner”. Simply, its a strategy to optimize our time and effort through a willful and deliberate accounting of the tasks we are to perform each day. Ranking the most important is key, and all others follow from this. As it happens, I’ve been keeping a daily/weekly planner for some years now–punctuated with all manner of pictures, drawings, inspirational quotes etc. Its nice to see a more formal approach and consideration. It’s useful, and a different way to catalog effort leading towards ? —change. And maybe all of this change is a sign–a sign to embrace it and make some new goals. Why not?! Have you followed through on your new year’s resolutions this year? Are you actively pursuing new interests and energies, those things that are done FOR YOU, AND YOU ALONE. The meaning is found in the pursuit, and the process, not the “end” per se.
There’s a free app I use whenever we travel called White Noise. In addition to having hundreds of “soothing” sounds to relax, or fall asleep to, it lets the user record and create their own sounds with a smartphone. Its very simple, and editable. The app lets you record a minute of sound, and then you choose what portion you would like to loop, or the entire length. Thus, I have started a collection of sounds from Indiana University and surrounding environs. For example, there’s the Jordan River that runs through the middle of campus, or, on our drop off visit, we stayed east of Bloomington in a cabin in the woods. The sound of the forest at night was awesome, a symphony of the nocturnal creatures within. Having these sounds close at hand bring comfort in knowing that Ben is there amongst these sonic spaces.
Its been a couple of weeks since I started this essay. In just a few days we travel down to IU for our first parents weekend. The past month has defined what “life change” means. Ben has been communicating with us, and, so far so good. Our perspective of life, and what is truly meaningful, has evolved again. So, for all of you parents experiencing the “new reality” of your child leaving home, take this dynamic and turn it into positive energy, for you and your kid. You’ll both be the better for it.