August 3, 2011
Abbot Paul Haller: “The Other Side of Loss is Salvation”

In his public dharma talk on Saturday at Beginner’s Mind Temple, Abbot Ryushin Paul Haller addressed what he called the “very delicate process” of healing, as a community and as individuals too. Of responding to the shock of loss:

As those shockwaves reverberate and we feel, start to make contact with our very human response — that sense of loss, that sense of the fabric of life being torn asunder, bent out of shape — how to discover that it’s taking a new shape, it’s reshaping, it’s rediscovering, is a very delicate process.

Part of the fierceness of life is, we can’t put it back together the way it was in those golden days before now. We move forward. We take what we have and we hold it with compassion, with courage, with patience, with wisdom, and, in the holding, something’s reshaped, something’s discovered about how to move forward.

In a way, this is no different from every period of meditation we have sat or we will sit. Our sincere intention is met by the urgent disorder of our life, our mind, our feelings, our memories, our anticipations. They demand attention. We can try to neglect, ignore, resist the world they create. Or we can discover how to meet it, how to be present for it, how in that presence, in that meeting, how to take the next breath, how to be available for what happens now.

Abbot Paul also read from and reflected on a poem by Mary Oliver (In Blackwater Woods): “To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”

An audio file of Saturday’s talk, The Other Side of Loss is Salvation, is available for download or listening through the web.


  1. Editor, The Great Leap (LT)

    A couple more excerpts:

    [18:15] In our community, holding the first meeting we had, there were long stretches of silence. Some people told me that they were confused, even a little upset by that — looking at it, thinking, “Don’t these people care? Don’t they have feelings?” To me it was more, and I think for many people in the room: the enormity of the situation, the intensity of our feelings, was too big to know how to wrap it inside words and ideas. We could speak of it in vignettes. But the words under the words, the ideas, the sentiments underneath what we were saying, kept drawing us back into a silence, a witnessing, a holding, a place of knowing that this is a time of not knowing. Not knowing what to do. Not knowing what’s next. But holding still, letting something in its tenderness reverberate, discover itself. Letting something in its tenderness start to experience, “Hm, what is this new world? How shall we relate to it? How shall we relate to each other?”

    The inner work of practice is to discover the conceptually simple, but — within the forces of our life — elusive and subtle, the simple of work of practice is that we let the force of life continually open us, invite us into a presence that’s bigger than the thoughts we have about it.

    [34:40] So as we go through our healing process here as a community, the “tell me” is not just an inner dialogue. It’s a collective dialogue, that we will move forward together, that we will grieve together, that we will rediscover together, that we will learn that there is a reciprocity between inside and outside, that life is fierce and life is beautiful.

  2. Tricia

    Thanks for the words of encouragement….this is a difficult time. t

  3. Mary

    It was a beautiful talk on by Paul. So inspiring.
    Such grief, such pain going on around us. Surrounded by love but unable reach it or feel it for ones self.
    I didnt know David but he seems to have made an impression on thoes around him. Now he has his peace.
    Thank you for this opportunity to learn about loss and salvation;
    tenderness and vunerabality. I just thought I should “tell you”


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