The gift of loss

Driving to work this morning, I saw birds in the sky, their V and M silhouetted shapes against billowy clouds of grey and white. They were commonplace birds - seagulls, ravens, pigeons - but today I was struck by them, like a visitor in a new land.  

Reflecting on the past year I have, as with many others, been filled by a deep sense of loss. The passing of leaders and creators that have helped shape me. The seemingly endless and senseless police brutality and violence against our Black brothers and sisters. The threats and violence at Standing Rock against Native Americans and mother Earth. Our local community devastated by the loss of bright young men and women in the Oakland fire. And a president elect who seems completely disconnected from his constituents. As such, it has also been a year of profound healing, enabling me to reconnect with life in deeper and simpler ways. The idea that loss leads to deeper connection feels like a paradox and like all paradoxes, its understanding cannot be grasped by the mind. It must be realized by the heart.

The term “at a loss” comes from hunting and is used in reference to hounds losing the scent. This past year I have been struck by that very feeling, a sense of bewilderment and confusion. To lose a scent is akin to losing a dream, the destination is no longer apparent and cannot be reached. I’ve had this feeling before when the rug is pulled from under me or I am unexpectedly thrown off track and have to quickly change plans and reconfigure. There is panic, anxiety and sometimes depression and paralysis but then I regroup and redirect.

This year I still can’t seem to find my footing, the feeling of loss is strong. And I actually feel this as positive and awakening. Being at a loss is like a short circuit to business as usual. Like a Zen Master slapping you upside the head, it hurts, it’s humiliating, it’s uncomfortable but it is exactly those things that wakes me up to challenge my own mind games. For many of us including me, our usual mind games are not mindful at all. We are running around like chickens without our heads (and hearts), obsessed with the busyness and trivialities of living but not feeling connected or alive. Much of life goes unnoticed when we are mindless like this. Put your head back on and your heart in its rightful place. Loss re-minds us of the uncomfortable fact that there is nothing permanent. As such, there is everything precious. For that may be the gift of loss.

A New Year has begun and life is short. I wish simple and beautiful things to take root in your life this year. There is much love and healing to cultivate in the world and in ourselves. May we locate all the loss and inspiration of the past year in our own hearts and in doing so may we ourselves give off the scent of love and healing so that none of us will be at a loss for very long.


Happy New Year BCA Community! All my love and blessings in the coming year.