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Antidotes to the fear of separation

A series of talks on the many aspects of of our lives that we may have fear towards—death, identity, the future, health, the economy, loss, separation, and more; touching also on the wisdom of fear and the different antidotes to ease our fears.

  • When separation happens, we really grieve a future without that person in it
  • Sending our loved ones on with love is an effective antidote to this fear of separation

Fear 14: Fear of separation antidotes (download)

Okay, so yesterday we talked about the fear of losing people that we care about. And another antidote to overcome the fear and then the attachment to the people, when there’s no choice that we separate, is to send them on with love. What I think often happens is, when we’re afraid of losing somebody, is we’re projecting into the future which of course hasn’t happened yet, and we’re writing a story about how awful the future is going to be without this person that we want to be in the future. But, maybe they’re still alive, they may be in the future, but we’re afraid of them not being in the future. Or maybe they already died, or maybe we already separated, or whatever, and so they aren’t going to be in the future. But what we’re doing is projecting into the future without this person that we want to be in the future and then being upset because the future isn’t going to be what we wanted it to be. Okay?

Because, when we separate from somebody, we don’t grieve about the past, do we? Because the past is over and done with. You don’t grieve about the past. Yes. The present is here right now, and it’s going quickly. So you’re not really grieving about the present. But when we grieve is we’re grieving about the future that isn’t going to be the way we want it to be. Yes? And so this projection into the future creates the fear of loss now of that person not being there. And, you know, then when there is the separation, it— Still, we’re advancing into the future, and they’re not going to be there. But the future hasn’t happened yet. Okay? Are you getting what I’m saying? I mean, think about it. Because we’re grieving for something that doesn’t exist at this moment, which is the future. Aren’t we? Aren’t we?

And I think it’s much more effective because—like we all know—whatever comes together has to separate. I mean, the Buddha said this, but he didn’t need to say it. We see it all the time. You know, it’s reality, but we like to pretend it doesn’t exist anyway. But, if we were to send people on with love instead of with fear, with regret, with remorse, with grief, with loss for a future that’s not going to be, because all of that’s revolving around us, isn’t it? I’m not going to have that person in my future. We’re not really thinking about the other person. Whereas if we send on the other person with love, we’re sending them some good energy, you know, that is going to benefit them. And we’re not just stuck in, you know, “I’m not getting what I want.” Yes, or, “It’s not happening the way I expected or the way I want it to happen or the way it’s supposed to happen.” Because all those things like how I want it to happen, what’s supposed to happen, what ought to happen, what should happen is totally irrelevant to reality, isn’t it? It’s totally irrelevant, because the thing is that we create the causes and those causes manifest as the result. So to create one set of causes and expect a different kind of result doesn’t make any sense. And to look at what the natural laws are and to say, ”They shouldn’t be.” Like, gravity shouldn’t exist, and so similarly, things that come together shouldn’t separate unless I want them to separate, in which case, they should separate as fast as possible. But, if I don’t want them to separate, they should stay together. As if we could change all these laws by just liking them or not liking them.

And do you see how all of that is just revolving around this notion of me at the center? It’s completely revolving around this concrete me that definitely is more important than anybody else. But when we look and we’re able to send people on with love, then there’s a lot of sweet feeling in our mind, and we can look in the past and say, “How fortunate I was to have that person in my life. It couldn’t last forever. But how fortunate it was that it lasted as long as it did, and I benefited from it, and now I’m sending them on with a lot of love.” You know? And then you do prayers for them, whether you’re separating because you’re moving to different places or somebody’s dying, or whatever the reason for the separation is. Just send them on with good feelings and dedications for their well-being. And that completely changes how our mind feels and it gets rid of all this whole mesh of fear and anxiety that exists in the mind, because we’re able to rejoice in what we had, see the reality of the situation and send them on with love.

I was asked to do a memorial service once that was so moving, because we wrote the memorial service while the person was still alive. And his wife got up in the service and just said, “All the love you gave me is just filling my heart, and now I’m just going to give it to the whole world.” And she was just lit up when she was saying this. It was totally amazing to see somebody just radiant from really rejoicing at having had that person in her life, recognizing he wasn’t going to be there in the future, and recognizing what she had received and then saying, “I’m going to give that to other people now.” So instead of feeling loss, she felt like her heart was full of love. It was totally amazing for me to see this. So, it really showed me that this is the way to deal with these kinds of situations.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.