“Never Let Yourself Be Saddened By a Separation” — Miyamoto Musashi

Dokkodo precept 8

Musashi lived a very different life from most people. He formed very few relationships and fewer attachments to people, so it’s easy for someone like himself to say this. We’ll adapt this saying to the more average individual.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with forming attachments and being upset when we lose loved ones. If you don’t feel even a twinge of sadness at the loss of those close to you, then you’re very likely a lot like Musashi. For the rest of us, however, these friendships are crucial to maintaining mental and emotional health. So, what can we gain from this quote?

Instead of saying “Never be saddened by loss” we’ll say “Never be crippled by loss”. It’s been shown that in many plane wrecks the passengers don’t die from the impact, instead, they die from their lack of action. These initial survivors become so gripped by fear and panic that they are unable to move and eventually succumb to the flames of the wreck. It’s a very sad situation, but we can learn something from this.

In life, many people become so overcome by grief, fear, and sadness at the loss of loved ones, jobs, homes, and more. Like the victims of these wrecks, they are unable to make any decision to move forward in their life and instead of choosing to progress, they get burnt up by the system.

A similar thing happens to those who have to fight in wars. They lose many brothers and sisters-in-arms, but if they allow themselves to be overtaken by sadness it can cost their own life or even their whole squad’s. They have to charge forwards so that the lives that were lost weren’t for nothing.

We must follow this example in our lives. We can’t allow ourselves to become so overcome with the grief of loss that it prevents us from being able to achieve our goals. This doesn’t mean we can’t allow ourselves to be sad or to remember those lost, it only means that we can’t become frozen. The soldiers mentioned above, when the opportunity comes and everyone is safe, put aside time to remember those they’ve lost. Oftentimes their losses are a motivation to push forward so that others don’t have to face the same loss.

The psyche is a very fragile thing. The more we try to suppress something, the stronger it becomes and the bigger vengeance it comes back with. If we try to suppress or deny our feelings of loss, we’re only going to inflict more damage on ourselves. I don’t want to seem like I’m saying to shove your feelings aside or to sweep them under the rug. Take the time you need to grieve over your losses, but don’t allow them to be so powerful that they don’t let you move forward and progress.

We must also use our losses as motivation to succeed. If we choose to stop moving forward, to stop progressing, we will have completely wasted the sacrifices we and those lost have made. Use your losses as a learning experience and pay homage through your successes. Live for those who no longer can.

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