the practical buddhist : essentials

only 3 things matter

For the past few days I’ve been thinking about a dear friend who is dying. She is someone who means a great deal to me and I’m finding it difficult to reconcile her inevitable passing with my commitment to stay in the present.

I realize that she is living her reality and though, at times, I wish she didn’t have to leave in this way, I am faced with the same reality. We are all faced with the reality that we will, one unknown day, cease to breathe and our physical body will no longer be sustained.

The difference is that she knows her time is near. But she’s not the only one. I have another friend who works in the arena of providing support to family affected by cancer, and in most instances, a terminal diagnosis.

In truth, there are hundreds of thousands of people on the planet facing imminent death. It’s a depressing realization, but one that is nonetheless a fact.

Only 3 things matter 

The Buddha is reported to have said that only three things matter:

  1. How much you loved
  2. How gently you lived
  3. How gracefully you let go of things not meant for you

My friend is one who gives love freely to those around her. I am better for having received a small portion of her love. She is one who lives very gently and treads upon the earth, not with demonstrable purpose but, with gentle humility. She isn’t a Buddhist, but she’s learned to let go of many things in recent months.

Taking a self-inventory

If I am to honor my friend’s life in any way that comes close to the authenticity with which she has lived hers, I’m convinced I need to evaluate my commitment and progress in each of these areas.

How much do you love? I know that I am a loving person, but I also know that I can be more patient, open, and accepting to all I encounter.

How gently do you live? It’s been said that gentleness is a brick covered in velvet.  The strength of their core being makes possible the gentleness of Thich Nhat Hanh, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and those who have come before us. It is this strength of core that I want to cultivate in order to continually exercise the degree of gentleness the world needs.

How gracefully do you let go a things not meant for you? In my current situation, I’ve recently moved from a sleepy little beach town to Silicon Valley. There is a certain amount of bustle in the city that I wasn’t used to on the coast. However, in the process of moving, I discarded, recycled, and sold approximately 90 percent of my belongings. I feel this has opened the way for me to display more gentleness as I’m no longer distracted by so much psychic and physical baggage.

As for my friend