Do Over (and Over)

“The heart of skillful meditation is the ability to let go and begin again, over and over again. Even if you have to do that thousands of times…Nothing has been ruined, and there is no such thing as failing.”

~ Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

Immersed as I am in a somewhat bold, occasionally daunting relocation, I find this quote deeply comforting. How encouraging, the notion of having a perpetual do-over in your hip pocket. How freeing, the possibility of starting fresh, resetting and redefining. What a relief to loosen, however fleetingly, the grip of fear and regret.

For a while now, I’ve been increasingly skeptical that there are such things as mistakes. Bad ideas, harmful actions, sure—but “mistake”? That word implies guilt-laden judgment (You should have known better), when truly, we can scarcely anticipate where our choices will take us. Considering contingencies and doing due diligence is clearly the responsible approach, but at some point any course of action becomes  a crap shoot, a spin of the wheel. It seems to me the most we can do is strive to be mindful, keep coming back to an awareness of what’s within and around us, and adjust (i.e., learn) accordingly.

This is obviously much easier said than done. Too often these days, rather than enjoying my own fresh start I feel lost or adrift, as though everything that was once familiar has receded into the distance. Compounding this feeling is the knowledge that it’s self-inflicted: this is not something that happened to me; nothing was taken. I did this, I chose to give up the life I knew. I’m responsible for this roiling sea of uncertainty into which I’ve plunged.

So perhaps the lesson here is that starting anew means learning to let go, whether one is literally moving on or simply accepting the passing of what once was. I’m reminded of the Buddhist emphasis on giving up one’s attachments, and I recall once reading a definition of relinquishment as not so much giving things up, but recognizing what was never really ours in the first place.

Things come and go, and often there isn’t anything we can do about it. In my own case, because I did not stay in Colorado, my relationships with my school and friends there must shift. But they would have evolved regardless, and even if I’d stayed put, I would be giving up other opportunities, closing off other possibilities. The truth is, we’re always giving things up: like it or not, this is Econ 101, the reality of opportunity costs. In this quantum life of finite time and infinite possibilities, we’re constantly collapsing the vast field of what we might do into the linear track of what we actually choose.

Knowing this, sometimes it still takes all my resolve to believe there are no mistakes, only lessons. Overanalysis and doubt are surely entrenched habits; yet I suppose that if need be, I can always…start over.

we can’t know what
we don’t know so
just let go


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Filed under Quotes, Zen

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