Today I watched an episode of a Netflix series, where monks created an intricate, colorful sand mandala, only to destroy it at the end of the episode, sweeping the colors together, scooping the grains into a heap in the center of the table; the remnants of days and days of painstaking artwork, now a pile of ash. They perform this ritual to symbolize the impermanence of life and everything in it.
If you’re a writer, you’re familiar with the term in publishing: in perpetuity, which means that once your words are published, they are published “forever.”
Seven years ago, I destroyed the life I thought would last forever: I got divorced, opened a business, made up for decades of debilitating fears and insecurities, dated way too much, and was trying to raise myself while raising two small children.
I was like a victim of an avalanche (I caused), attempting to claw my way to the surface, completely disoriented. What kept me digging in the right direction was writing. It’s how I found my way out.
When I started publishing my work six years ago, I didn’t consider the concept or the consequences of perpetuity. I just wrote and published and wrote and published. One article turned to hundreds of articles, with readership in the thousands and views in the millions of some of my pieces. It was helping me figure out my life and at the same time, it was helping others. Strangers wrote to me, divulging their deepest, darkest secrets, confiding in me as I have confided in them through my articles.
And here I am today, sweeping the last grains of the past seven years into a pile at the center of yet another impermanent foundation. All of that work, the countless hours sitting at my computer typing my heart out, is gone. That life, in the avalanche, is over.
My children aren’t babies anymore. They are growing into brilliant young women, impressionable and dependent on my guidance. It is my job as their mother to provide a safe haven for them to develop as they search and discover the meaning and purpose of their lives. And, that is why it was time to destroy the mandala of words I’ve painstakingly created, to protect them.
With the permission and help of the editors at elephant journal, they deleted it all, my entire “in perpetuity” column. I am not sad. I am completely relieved. Relief, the feeling that accompanies the freedom of letting go when you accept the end without trying to hold on.
This is the greatest lesson I hope to model for my children: when and how to let go. In that, we learn how to give and receive love without conditions.
How does the monk know that he’s deposited the last grain of sand and it’s time to put down the instrument and sweep it all away? Things are finished when they’re finished, even when they seem halfway done from the outside, the one on the inside knows it’s complete.
When we’re present and immersed in the moment, in our environment and with those around us, we can see, hear and feel when it’s time to begin and when it’s time to end, even when we don’t necessarily want it to end.
I have yet to master this, but I’m learning and I practice it daily. I have failed tragically over and over when letting go of relationships. I’d fight and hold on and beg for things not to end and that would cause me to become distant from life, from those I love and from myself.
But, I’m learning to listen, to keep my hands relaxed, my eyes soft and my ears open. I observe the current of time and I try to swim with it, surrendering and allowing it to carry me in its ever-changing forms.
The pile has been swept away. It’s time to create something new, something that suits the new foundation I find myself upon, and I’ll be watching and listening and feeling for when it’s time to sweep this one away, too.