DDM Global News

Dharma of Grieving - The Wise Way to Deal with Loss

Updated July 1, 2022

Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Chan Meditation Centre hosted a dharma talk on June 25th, 2022, with our guest speaker, David Listen, who is currently a counselor and life coach residing in New York, utilizing the teachings of Buddha to talk about and deal with grieving.
David started his lecture by outlining the definitions of grieving and different types of loss. Later, he further described human reactions of coping with loss into two categories: unskillful reaction and skillful reaction. David presented the four effective steps from Master Sheng Yen: face it, accept it, deal with it, and let it go for people to deal with loss in a more skillful way. Afterwards, he explained the principle of impermanence, causes and conditions, and practical ways of how to deal with loss and to properly process grieving using Chan Buddhism.
What is grieving? David has defined it as prolonged sadness that lasts longer than just a few moments, which can sometimes last for months and even years, due to a deep sense of loss. Further, he defined loss as the belief that we had something and now it is gone. Losses can range from human life, relationship, material possession, time, opportunity, capacity, reputation, etc.
Most people deal with loss in unskillful ways, such as not willing to face it, trying to distract the attention to temporarily avoid the pain, numbing through drugs, resisting the loss, blaming other people for their own pain, or simply just not doing anything with it.

From the Buddhist's perspective, the idea of "gain" itself is actually against the reality of impermanence (無常) and causes and conditions (因緣). Buddhism points out that both gain and loss are not ultimate. No matter what we gain or lose, they are temporary and changing. If we can shift our mindset, eventually we can let go of the idea of loss.
How do we deal with loss skillfully then? David introduced the idea of Four Steps to deal with loss, which was first provided by Master Sheng Yen: face it, accept it, deal with it, and let it go. In Chan tradition, we can practice the four steps during sitting meditation. How do we deal with loss in the context of sitting meditation? We accept and embrace the loss itself. We fully experience the pain and the concept of loss. By simply just experiencing the idea, not clinging to it, we are training ourselves to see the changes, conditions, and the nature of grief. Once we can see the main condition of the idea that we thought we lost something, we are able to let go and release, further allowing the grief to pass, which is also called processing the grief. David provided an interesting metaphor about this process, which is that we are learning to be the blue sky, which sees clouds come and go, just being aware but not being affected by clouds. Clouds are just like our arising emotions. With practice, we are able to transform grief into ease, wisdom, and compassion.
After the talk, David answered questions from our audience and he emphasized again that as long as we can shift our mindset about the idea of loss, and come to understand the loss itself is actually impermanent (無常) and selfless (無我), we are able to let go and be relieved. David also encouraged everyone to keep practicing the Chan methods mentioned in today's talk, to be able to deal with pain and loss in a more compassionate and wise way!
Written by Gina Lin 2022.06.28
Photo: Vancouver Chan Meditation Centre