This too shall pass

Our guest author is a single parent and a professional based in London, UK.

this too shall pass

When my husband and I first met we had a lot in common — mutual friends, common interests, same sense of humour, we laughed all the time at the silliest of things — but I clearly remember the moment when we really connected, like I had never connected with anyone before. It was when we both admitted that we had often in our lives seriously contemplated suicide.

If any of our mutual friends had been present at that conversation they would undoubtedly have been deeply shocked, as externally neither he nor I showed any signs of having such thoughts. It was at this point that our relationship moved on to a much more committed level, as though we had shared our darkest secret and still been accepted by the other. Not long afterwards we were married, and soon there was a baby on the way.

You see we were not without hope, we still thought we could ‘get it right’; but at times we just couldn’t work out what the purpose was in life and why we couldn’t make life turn out the way we wanted. I think we both had a sense that we were somehow ‘owed’ happiness but someone ‘up there’ didn’t seem to have got that memo; instead our lives had been complicated and painful, very painful.

When we married, the UK was in the middle of the economic crisis of the late 80s. As mortgage rates soared, my husband’s business disintegrated and finally collapsed, and we faced a mountain of debts as well as the understanding we would have to move out of our lovely home. One night, having gone to bed before my husband after what I thought had been a positive discussion of plans for our future, I was woken by a continuous ringing on our doorbell.

The two policemen informed me that my husband had been killed by a train — a train that he was kneeling in front of as it came around the corner. Our daughter was seventeen months old.

crunkled manThis story is shocking I know, but not unusual. All those statistics about suicide are about people like you and me. All those deaths devastate the lives of the people left behind, people like you and me.

I thought I had known pain before, but it was nothing like this — so powerful that my mind would turn to stone to protect me, or I would find myself gasping for breath, feeling that the pain would, in fact, kill me.

Everything changes

The recovery was very long, many years, with good times when everyone thought I was ‘over it’, followed by deep, dark troughs of grief and confusion. But significant things happened along the way. The first came two weeks after his death when I took my daughter to the park on a beautiful, sunny, spring morning. She laughed, the sun shone, the crocus bulbs bloomed, and I realised he would never see any of these things again: no changes in the seasons, no child growing into the beautiful young woman she is now, no opportunity for the sadness and confusion to heal and happiness to arise again.

In that moment I realised that ‘everything changes’ and that, no matter how terrible things may seem, they will change. ‘This too shall pass.’ In that moment I decided that no matter how bad things seemed I would stay for my daughter, that I no longer had the choice my husband had taken, that she needed me and I would live my life for her. crocuses in snow

People would say to me, ‘It must be so much harder for you with a child to look after,’ and I would think, ‘She is what keeps me putting one foot in front of the other.’ This is how compassion and love work. By thinking of her and wanting her to be happy, by wanting to protect her, I was no longer paralysed by my grief. My love for her took me away from my pain.

Wherever you go, there you are

I am sorry if the next few paragraphs are a bit ‘out there’ for some of you. I am in general a very practical Dharma practitioner, not ‘airy fairy’. I believe Buddha’s teachings are scientific; if you create the causes the effects will happen, and Buddha teaches us how to create the best possible effects. However, the following ‘out there’ things did happen, and I am telling you about them in the hope it will help others.

A couple of years after my husband died I was fortunate enough to be offered a teaching job in the Bahamas (I know!). Such idyllic conditions for myself and my daughter, good friends, great job, beautiful beaches with white sand and sapphire seas, and an incredible social life with millionaires and rock stars. And yet one day I found myself sitting on a beach feeling the familiar crushing sense of despair. I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. Apart from the joy of my daughter, I could not find a happiness that wasn’t superficial and short lived; everything led me back to pain.

BahamasI was sitting on the silky, white sand, looking at the jewel-like sea, knowing I couldn’t die but not knowing how I could find the energy, or wish, to go on. Then, as clearly as if the person was standing right over me, I heard:

‘I will always take care of you.’

I quickly turned but there was no one there. I even stood up to look all around — no one. I just knew in my heart that what they said was true, that I would be alright; and I went home and booked us on a flight back to England.

A reunion

Over the coming years I found myself moving quite a lot and not finding what I was looking for – difference being that I now had a sense that there was something to look for. I wanted to find the source of the voice. I ended up in Brighton, and in the local paper I saw a photo of the teacher at the newly opened Bodhisattva Centre. I knew nothing about Buddhism, but immediately had an overwhelming sense that I knew this teacher very well, that I loved him dearly. It was like finding a long-lost brother. I had to go to the class. The feeling of knowing him never left me but, out of shyness, I never spoke to him. It seems like he was one of the lamps to the path.

Bodhisattva Centre
Bodhisattva Centre, Brighton

I loved the statues in the Centre, the prayers, but I particularly loved the practical nature of the teachings. To be told that samsara was the nature of suffering but that a spiritual path could take us out of it was such a relief for me. After attending classes for a few years, I was persuaded to attend the Festival in Portugal for Venerable Geshe Kelsang’s last teachings. The best two weeks of my life, I spent most of it crying with joy. I was home.

A protector

While I was there I noticed a young mum with a little girl in the video link tent who seemed to be without help, so I offered to look after the child the next day so that she could go into the temple itself. The girl slept as I held her and, looking down at her, she seemed just the same as my daughter in the weeks after my husband’s death. The same warmth against my skin, the same weight in my arms, the same peaceful sleeping expression and soft curling hair — it was beautiful and painful at the same time.

Later I paused under an ancient tree in the park next to the temple, and the moment I sat and my hand touched the root of the tree, the last years of my life played across my mind like a film. The death, my daughter, the recovery, the beach, the voice, Bodhisattva Centre … all the way through to me sitting under the tree, next to the temple where Venerable Geshe-la was teaching. Then I knew, as clear as day, that Venerable Geshe-la was the source of that voice. He had been guiding me all the way along, gently and imperceptibly leading me to this moment, to this temple, back to him.

i will always be with youSomeone told me not long ago that when their girlfriend met Geshe-la for the first time, he took her hand and told her, ‘I have been taking care of you since you were a little girl.’

‘Yes,’ I thought when I heard that, ‘he was.’ He was looking after her, and me, and indeed all the people who end up meeting him through his centres, books, disciples, and so on. So that even when we thought we were alone and isolated in our suffering, he was blessing us and drawing us closer.

The way out

Now, through meeting him, I understand that in samsara no one is owed happiness and the only happiness we experience is temporary. That instead of seeking death what I was really seeking was renunciation, the desire to get out of samsara channelled in the right direction.

I pray often that people who are having suicidal thoughts and fantasies should come to know renunciation. They are correct that this contaminated life is the nature of suffering, that their own and other people’s suffering is sometimes too painful to bear. travel path to liberationIt’s just that the solution they think they have found is no solution. The escape from the suffering is not death – it is seeking permanent mental freedom for ourselves and others through liberation and enlightenment.

If you are suffering today, please remember that no matter how bad it appears to be now, everything changes. ‘This too shall pass.’ Remember that you are always being taken care of by spiritual guides such as Venerable Geshe-la — he is praying for us and our families. Remember that you will always find the solution if you go for refuge to the Three Jewels.

A request

I would be grateful if after reading this you would turn your thoughts and prayers to those affected by suicide.

I pray that my husband and all those who take their own life find the everlasting peace of enlightenment. May everyone be happy. May everyone be free from misery.

(Editor’s note: September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month).

Comments welcome.

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Reaching out — more Buddhist thoughts on suicide

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Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

43 thoughts on “This too shall pass”

  1. I had a dream when Geshe La said to me “I will always take care of you’. Those exact same words.

    1. Ahhh, how lovely, exactly the same words. I wonder how many other people have heard him say that too.
      I am sure he always will, thank you for sharing that ❤️

  2. Beautifully and simply told, and so encouraging. How important is it we remember that as samsaric beings we are all connected, and by opening our hearts we can benefit from refuge in the 3 jewels and Buddhas blessings.
    Without special imprints we are so vulnerable to despair especially when young, and seeking to find our way. I have been there and recognise it was love of family and friends, one particular caring professional – and yes some power greater than me but also part of me who helped me get through. Before now I hadn’t made the connection with Geshe La.
    Thank you for your bravery and evocation of how love is the foundation for survival in difficult times. How wonderful that over time, with training and faith and refuge it can grow and grow to encompass all living beings.
    What a blessed karmic connection you have with your daughter.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience too. There are some wonderful professionals out there too that can help us through. My health visitor was a naturally kind, practical person who just said the things I needed to hear at the time to carry me through. Saving lives so we can all go on to experience wonderful things.

      Yes, I long ago realised that my daughter is my kind, precious teacher. As was my husband.

      I am glad you found a way through and I know your journey will end with all the happiness you could ever hope for. Much love to you ❤️

  3. Wow 😮this sent shivers through my body.
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience
    with us. May Buddha and Geshe-la blessings and nectar flow upon you.
    Much Luv💚 and Blessings 📿

    1. Thank you for your kind words Shobie. We are so lucky to have the Three Jewels, I am blessed by them every day. Sending love ❤️

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing your experience of this very difficult time in your life. My son took his life four years ago and I know the terrible anguish for those left behind. I’ve had many questions in my mind about how w person should deal with this.
    Your beautiful sincere sharing has helped tremendously to help create peace of mind accepting life in whatever form or shape that it unfolds.
    Thanks again and may those blessings rain down on all the suffering beings in Samsara. May they develop renunciation and find the freedom they so desperately yearn for.
    Much happiness and love in this life and all those future ones.

    1. I am so sorry to hear that you suffered your son’s loss.

      Most importantly for me has been the understanding that Buddha teaches that as ordinary human beings we are limited in what we can do. So when I think, ‘Should I have done something differently, could I have said something that would have saved my husband?’ I now understand that no, in my present state I couldn’t, I am limited in my wisdom.
      But Buddha also teaches that I have the potential to become a Buddha with a Buddha’s unlimited wisdom and compassion. I would have the speech and mind of a Buddha, I could help everyone suffering in this way.
      This gives me motivation to practice and until I have achieved this state I know my heartfelt prayers will continue to help my husband in whatever life he is experiencing now. Sometimes I also think that in fact he was an emanation and he continues to help me now on my spiritual path, like the wind in my sails taking me to enlightenment.
      May all suffering quickly cease, sending you love ❤️

  5. This is a beautiful piece, filled with compassion and searching and faith. I, too, heard Geshe la say that to us all in Portugal and remind myself often of his love and steadfast presence. It helps so much! I’m also amazed with your spiritual progression, thank you for the inspiration! I feel more connected on the path, with everyone here! Thanks for writing this, Anonymous, and Luna, thank you for connecting us all.

    1. What a beautiful comment Hilary, we are all so fortunate to have each other and our wonderful teachers. Thank you ❤️

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your deeply moving and inspiring experiences. My heart feels so connected after reading this.

  7. Thank you so much for your very personal and very moving article. I am sure that your husband and all other precious mother living beings are abiding in Sukhavati pure land ‘Om mani pame hum’ ❤️

    1. I like to think that and imagine him and others enjoying life and benefitting others. Thank you for that kind thought.

    1. Maybe we have, we are both anonymous here, perhaps we are already very good friends. If not in this life, maybe in another. One of my favourite quotes from Venerable Geshe La is ‘we all connected in a web of kindness.’ Thank you for your reply and making this connection with me.

  8. Yes it will pass, thank you! And so nice to know we aren’t alone. We have each other and our amazing Spiritual Guide, Protector and most profound friend <3

    1. Indeed, with the three precious jewels of Dharma we can never be alone. ‘Most profound friend’ that’s very beautiful, thank you.

    1. I am so pleased Luna asked me to write an article, I have had such lovely responses and kind replies like yours ❤️

  9. Thank you for your story. I wonder if you have any advice for those of us who have never had a (for lack of a better word) “supernatural” experience? These experiences seem to be the basis of faith for most people, but I have never experienced this, and it leaves me at a loss as to whether any of this can be true.

    1. Hello, interestingly although I had these experiences I wouldn’t say they are the basis of my faith. The basis of my faith is my experience of putting my teacher’s instructions into practice and finding that the results are exactly what they are meant to be. As I have made effort I have become happier, that is not necessarily because I don’t have problems, it is that Buddha teaches me methods to transform the way I respond to external circumstances. So these ‘supernatural’ experiences on their own would not cause me to have faith, but in the overall context of the scientific methods taught and the results I have experienced, then they enhance my faith. I would say for anyone wishing to increase their faith then reading or listening to Dharma instructions and putting them into practice are a sure way to increase faith 😊

  10. Your story has been with me most of today. I don’t have much experience with suicide, and I’ve honestly never contemplated it, so your story helped me develop compassion for those who have.

    I think perhaps we met Kadam Dharma about the same time. For me it was early 2011. I love your story of Geshe-la saying he’d been caring for her since she was a little girl. Of course! I feel closer to him now thanks to what you’ve written. Thank you for writing and sharing your story.

    1. Susan, thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I can’t think of two things that could make me happier than hearing that this helped increase your compassion and helped you to feel closer to Geshe La. Just lovely!

  11. Such an honest and heart warming story. I don’t really have anything to add to the comments already made, except an additional thank you for writing the article. And I love the stories of Geshe-la.

    1. Thank you for your reply Mike, I am very glad it warmed your heart ❤️

  12. Thank you for this beautiful teaching from your heart
    May we all awake from this dreadful hallucination.
    Geshe-la’s kindness is beyond

    1. Thank you for your kind reply. Geshe La’s Kindness It is indeed ‘beyond expression’ beautifully said. May all suffering quickly cease ❤️

  13. Thank you for sharing your really moving story. I felt like crying with Joy when you said how you felt going to vererable Geshe-las teachings in Portugal! This morning before I left for work I looked at his photo on my fridge and had the spontaneous thought “I am surrounded by Love!”. We all are and your story is a perfect example of his love and how he is with us, guiding us all to enlightenment. Thank you x

  14. Thank you, dear writer, for your honesty and vulnerability and compassion in sharing this. More people than we realize are suffering deeply and considering suicide as a viable option. Thank you, Luna, for your openness to sharing articles about this topic. I feel that hearing about suicide from fellow Kadampas really helps our community and spiritual practitioners of other paths as well to come to understand the particular pain of suicide and wanting to die. It helps our compassion grow, and I think our kind, skillful speech as well.

    I, too, have been affected by the suicide of someone close to me, and I also struggled for years with deep depression and wanting to die. The wish to escape from that pain was often overwhelming. Finding real refuge in the Kadampa path, and having similar experiences of knowing that Geshe-la and all the Buddhas are with me, have been the lamps guiding me to the light. It’s no longer an option to end my life, thankfully, but occasionally the karmic familiarity of that darkness will arise. Now I recognize it as not me, and I handle it with strength, reliance, and compassion. One day it will be purified completely!

    I appreciate how you talked about renunciation and the wish to escape, how choosing death is not the real solution. This is so important. But the wish to escape, now THAT is a great wish! May everyone meet a path that leads them to escape permanently from mental pain, to achieve the permanent mental freedom of liberation and enlightenment.

    1. What a beautiful reply, thank you for sharing your experience. It is so important to know we are not alone in our suffering so allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can really help others. Having identified the suffering it is then so important to share the solution we have found, as you have done so beautifully here.

      I am always reminded of the lotus at these times, the pure beauty arising from the ‘karmic familiarity of that darkness.’ From our own pain we learn compassion from others and this is the fuel for our spiritual path.

      I pray your darkness leaves you quickly, forever, I know it will because you have such Faith. Much love ❤️

  15. We’ve all had those this too shall pass moments, some less, some more. This is a very powerful experience and I hope it does not pass too.
    It’s interesting for those of us who have not had the opportunity to personally meet GesheLa but experience him in that same way nonetheless. I’ve spoken with him many times, and he comes through.

    1. Indeed, faith opens up our mind so we can experience the truth that Venerable GesheLa is with us always ❤️

  16. Dear Author, I have never responded to anyone’s articles or blogs before. Just wanted to say that your story is very similar to mine in thinking for so many years that death would be preferable to the pain of mental suffering and thinking there was no way out, externally appearing fine to everyone else and ‘doing well’ in life, feeling as though I just wanted to sleep and not wake up, searching in so many places, feeling in constant fear, externally changing places, jobs and relationship and then…..’coming home’ when I attended a Kadampa class in Bude in 2005. When I first heard that inner peace was possible I knew that is what I was looking for. I feel that throughout my 51 years, no matter how bad it got, a thin thread kept pulling me through; now I know who it was guided me with the thread of love and wisdom, appearing in so many forms to point the way. I am now lucky enough to teach a branch class and pass on our beautiful lineage instructions and am experiencing a freedom and happiness I never knew was possible…..and it is only the beginning. Everyday at work and home I am reminded of the suffering of others and know how painful self grasping is; and how far removed mother beings can feel from any solution. How can I not pass it on, how can I not wish for the freedom of all living beings, how could I ever abandon any living being? Renunciation and compassion… beautiful they are.
    Thank you from the depths of my heart Geshle

    1. How beautiful ❤️ The thread from our Guru’s heart to our own, leading us home. I am so delighted that you are teaching a branch class, you have so much to give and so much hope coming from your own experience of Dharma – how could you not pass that on, indeed.

  17. I also entertained thoughts of suicided. Thoughts of countless things thoughts of others. I have and been beauty and darkness.
    Having had a oneness experience with god which took me into even more lightness and darkness. I had dissolved my thoughts on god when I met a beautiful Buddhist women. The teachings resonated with me and I drew them close. It then led me right back to god. Had it not been for these beliefs I would not have found my joy. So I am a child of god with Christian and Buddhist beliefs. Who knows what I’ll be next. I have peace and happiness and love. I have faith I will not suffer anymore unless I make that choice.
    With much love,
    Your brother

    1. Hello brother ❤️ Life is lightness and darkness isn’t it, by following our spiritual path then we move permanently out of those shadows into the light. You clearly have compassion thinking of the pain of others, not just yourself, knowing we are all interconnected is so important. May you have peace and happiness and love permanently ❤️

  18. I’ve just read “this too shall pass”.
    Really wonderful article and very inspiring.
    Yes indeed – it will be alright!!
    Jack Lavery

  19. Thank you so much for your article, it is deeply moving and literally made me cry. Someone very close to me also committed suicide when I was only a few months old. I also was there when Geshe-la said he is always with us (I think he also added something like “but you don’t recognize”!), and I often go back to that when things get tough. May we all have the wisdom to know that renunciation is a far wiser response than all of the other things we do when things don’t turn out the way we want them to. Thank you once again. Wishing you happiness and sending lots of love. x

    1. I am sorry you experienced this sadness too Matt. It’s wonderful that you heard those words too and they bring you the same comfort they bring me. I wish you much happiness, love and peace ❤️

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