getting along fine without me

May 17th, 2015

381069_10150447692416247_262842176246_8779182_1129924044_nBuddhists don’t try to cause trouble, but one thing that troubles people about Buddhism is the concept of non-attachment. That’s because we think attachment means love, and we think love means I can’t live without you. We are always hung up on our own self-serving notions—what I need, what I want, what I like, what I think, what is best, what is right—and that’s the cause of suffering. We attach to those ideas as though they were life itself. The truth is never the phony thing we attach to in our heads. The truth is as it is.

Buddha taught what he called the Four Noble Truths. He taught truth as it is, complete and universal. He called it noble because there’s nothing more true than what is. You don’t have to believe this is true because you experience it every time things don’t go your way.

1. Life is suffering. Things change.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment. It hurts when things change.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable. Accept that things change.
4. There is a way out of suffering. By changing yourself.

When we try to imagine what it means to overcome our attachments, we picture cruel and unfeeling indifference. But that is never the outcome of overcoming attachments. That is never the outcome of accepting what happens. That is never the outcome of allowing people and things to be as they are. The outcome of non-attachment is love.

I don’t have to preach this. You know it yourself by waking up to life as it is. Your children grow up and grow distant. They might upset, alarm and even despise you, but your eyes still flicker at the sight of them. Your parents grow old, enfeebled and afraid, dependent and encumbering, but you care for them. Sickness comes, disaster strikes, and seasons change. Everything falls apart no matter how hard you’ve tried: all that forethought, planning and prevention! This life of ours is strewn with faded blooms. You didn’t sign up for the hard part, but this is the way it is. How will you love what you don’t even like? There’s only one way: selflessly.

When you act with compassion, all your doing is undoing—undoing ignorance, suffering, fear, anger, exploitation, alienation, injury, blame, you name it—simply by undoing the stingy hold you keep on yourself. Thinking poor me impoverishes your entire world.

When she was about six years old, someone asked my daughter what it was like to have a mom who was a Zen priest.

“She screams a lot,” she said. It wasn’t the answer they were expecting. There were polite chuckles all around.

I can comfort myself with the fact that children only remember when their parents scream, not when their parents don’t scream. Silence, after all, is a non-event. No matter what I was hollering about, I wish I’d had the presence of mind to let it go. I wish I’d dropped my rage, fear, frustration, resentment, or despair: whatever illusory part of me I was cherishing at the time. I wish love could be my legacy instead, the way a camellia launches its blossoms into the oblivion of time without causing a quiver of pain. No one ever notices when a flower has fulfilled its purpose in life, just as no one ever regrets a moment lost to love.


Excerpted from  Paradise in Plain Sight ©2014 by Karen Maezen Miller. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.

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  1. Oh love will definitely be your legacy.

    Comment by marcea — May 17, 2015 @ 3:03 pm

  2. Thank you so much for the reminder to release attachments. How many reminders well it take? I’m always grateful to be reminded … again and again and again to let go. Thank you. What are you grateful for?

    Comment by Antonia — May 17, 2015 @ 5:15 pm

  3. I am grateful for forgiveness.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — May 17, 2015 @ 5:23 pm

  4. Thank you for explaining non attachment. That had always bothered me but now I understand ( as much as possible). I really enjoy all your posts and have learnt a lot.
    I appreciate that you write about the difficult times, I always thought that as you got older things would be eventually get easier. But you just have to accept things and learn from them and try always to be kind.
    Kind wishes

    Comment by Wendy — May 17, 2015 @ 7:24 pm

  5. What a beautiful post! I love the grace and simplicity you bring to the Buddhist precepts. Your personal stories always touch a universal chord. Ultimately you teach the rest of us that it is possible to have faith in the path. Blessings!

    Comment by Edith — May 18, 2015 @ 3:02 am

  6. […] Getting Along Fine Without Me by Karen Maezen Miller […]

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  7. my gosh, Maezen you are the answer I always need for any question I have. heart & awareness! how wonderful!

    Comment by hadar — May 18, 2015 @ 10:59 am

  8. Thanks again…I, too, wonder how many reminders it will take… I guess reminders in every moment, moment by moment, day by day, every breath. Thank you.

    Comment by Deb — May 18, 2015 @ 11:07 am

  9. Maezen, you write so beautifully and teach so well. This speaks so directly to me it makes me shiver. Thank you, and much love to you.

    Comment by Clare — May 18, 2015 @ 6:38 pm

  10. Every time I reread a passage from Paradise in Plain Sight, I think how did I miss this? I cannot have read this before—it would have saved me so much pain to have read this.

    It will take more suffering for me to learn to hold less tightly, but your words help me identify the lesson my whole life has been trying to teach me. Thank you.

    Comment by Deirdre — May 21, 2015 @ 11:53 am

  11. I love you Deirdre, and was thinking about you just yesterday.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — May 21, 2015 @ 1:09 pm

  12. […] Getting Along Fine Without Me – Karen Maezen Miller. I’m still wrapping my head around this piece but I’ve had it open in my browser all week…thinking about it, letting it sink in. […]

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  13. Your honesty is beautiful, thanks for letting us in!

    Comment by angela — May 23, 2015 @ 10:32 pm

  14. […] Getting Along Fine Without Me by Karen Maezen Miller […]

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