Some years ago, I owned and operated a small business employing 13 people. I started it from scratch and things went quite well for some time. The business met or exceeded the goals I set for it, and I felt like I was on top of the world. I felt I had established myself. Then one January the business began suffering an unrelenting string of setbacks, and within six months it had collapsed.
Nearly everything went with it. From January to June, I lost one thing after another that had — until then — been the substance of my self-identity. Not a week went by that I didn’t loose some part of me — of what I thought of as “me” at the time. The business, my wife, my home, my friends … so on and so forth.
During those six months, I took to spending as much time as I could in nature. Typically, I’d take a break from work around sunset, drive out to my favorite lake, watch the sky and the waves, and then return to finish up the day’s work. After I lost my wife and home, I took to sleeping in the countryside most nights.
One night I bedded down beneath a flowering cherry tree. The fragrance of the blossoms entered my dreams that night, and I woke the next morning covered in petals. Little things like that became increasingly valuable to me, while I became indifferent to the “big” things I once valued so dearly.
Little by little, I learned how to let go of what was gone. Even how to let go of the intangible things. I was driving along a winding country road late one night when for no particular reason I thought of God, heaven and hell. I realized then it no longer mattered whether God existed. More than that, it no longer mattered whether heaven or hell existed. I couldn’t say why they no longer mattered. I just knew they did not. And with that insight, another part of my self-identity slipped from me. For until then I had thought it important to who I was to know whether I believed or not.
Nature is ever changing, and so are we — who are, after all, a part of nature. Very often, we wall ourselves off from that truth. Very often, we erect barriers to fully realizing it. But sometimes those barriers collapse. Then we might see clearly how we are not some stable, unchanging thing, but rather something in transit — but rather an ever changing process.