When an ending is in the wings—whether a relationship, a job, a way of life—let it go and let yourself fly.
by Patricia Spadaro
Excerpted from Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving, chapter 10: "When the Way Comes to an End"
Why is it our natural reflex to blame ourselves or others when we are faced with endings? For one, we believe the myth that there is something wrong with endings—that they are unnatural. Perhaps what bothers us even more is that we are not in control of how and when those endings come. But how could we be? The only thing we are ever in control of is ourselves, not what whirls around us.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes,” but there is one more thing we can be certain of: things change. All things change. Endings are not exceptions to the rule; they are the rule. Each day comes to an end and then gives way to a new dawn. Each season transitions into the next. The new moon soon becomes a full moon, and vice versa. Our lives and the events that weave themselves through it are governed by the same universal cycle—birth, growth, maturity, decline, rest, and renewal once again.
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant is change.” Tales and traditions the world around speak of this truth. Native Americans, for example, use the symbol of the circle to describe life’s inevitable cycles of change and transformation. “The power of the world always works in circles,” said Black Elk. “The life of a man is a circle. . . , and so it is in everything where power moves.” The mystical Book of Revelation says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.” Life’s beginnings and endings are also reflected in the Hindu sacred trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, representing the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer.
Ending Ignorance, Awakening to the Truth
The Hindu tradition also portrays life’s transformations through the iconography of Kali, goddess of life and death, transformation and dissolution. To understand the imagery evoked by the Hindu gods and goddesses, you have to realize that each one symbolizes and expresses a function of the divine. Their qualities and characteristics represent life processes that we, too, will experience.
Kali is a paradoxical figure. Like the forces of change that visit us, she is at once ferocious and loving, fearsome and kind. She is portrayed with four arms, disheveled hair, and a necklace of skulls. Her two right hands confer maternal boons, representing the creative side of life with its new beginnings. On the other hand (in this case, her left ones), she wields a sword of knowledge and a severed head. These symbolize her ability to cut free humans from all that binds them to the unreal, bringing an end to their ignorance. Many endings in life spell the end of ignorance as we awaken to a truth we haven’t seen before and decide it is time to move on.
If I try hard enough,
I can control what happens in my life.
Endings are a natural part of life’s cycles.
I honor myself by accepting them and
the transformations they bring.
The Phoenix in Us All
Another profound and universal symbol of transformation comes to us in the ancient legend of the phoenix. That legend can be found, in one version or another, in many countries, including Egypt, Persia, Greece, China, and Ireland. It tells of an amazing bird who at a ripe old age builds a nest for itself, ignites it, and is consumed by the fire. From the ashes of its own ending, a new phoenix emerges.
All these traditions and many more are meant to remind us that we, too, are engaged in a continual dance of transformation as our outworn understandings, possessions, habits, relationships, and ways of being give way to new ones. When an ending comes knocking, you need not fear. Honor it and know that you, too, have the phoenix inside of you.
(Excerpted from chapter 10 of Honor Yourself.)
To learn more about how you can use time-honored wisdom to honor the endings in your life, accept what is, and let go of the past, get your copy of Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving.
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