Recently, our temple held a “throw out day” in preparation for the demolition next spring of our existing facility. We have been in our present building for almost fifty years so we had accumulated a lot of “stuff.” In Buddhism, we often speak of the idea of nonattachment, of letting go. This led to many jokes about becoming nonattached to items that we had no idea why we had saved in the first place. Of course, nonattachment is much more than throwing away junk.

One of the primary causes of unhappiness is our tendency to cling to things, thoughts, actions and desires. Shakyamuni Buddha realized that everything is impermanent, all arises and passes away. When we fail to understand this fact, and base our happiness on things not changing, we are certain to suffer. The same is true if we choose to wallow in our misery. Misfortune befalls us and we can see no end to our despair. This attachment to our pain is certain to guarantee continued suffering.

Our relationships with other people, both as individuals and communities, are filled with negative attachments. How often have you been mad at, or held a grudge against, a relative or former friend because of something they said or did years ago? How much of the turmoil in the world is the result of incidents that occurred long before anyone alive today was born? By clinging to these emotions we make impossible the forgiveness that leads to happiness.

Life is a collection of goals and desires. As taught, we strive wholeheartedly to achieve them. However, due to circumstances beyond our control, we often reach the point where these are unachievable. Accepting that we did our best and letting go allows us to move on with joy to the next stage of our life. Bemoaning our fate and feeling anger only leads to resentment and sorrow.

December is a time when many of the religious traditions celebrate a holiday or significant event. The prevailing sentiment is one of peace on Earth, goodwill towards others. As the year draws to a close we eagerly anticipate the new year. This year, in preparation for the new, why not hold your own mental “throw out day?” Look at your life. Cherish the good times now, knowing that they will pass. Realize that you can overcome current misfortunes. As you spend time with friends and relatives, think of the ones to whom you no longer speak. Resolve to be the one that reaches out to heal old wounds. Reflect upon the goals and desires you have achieved and let go of the ones no longer attainable. Free yourself from old attachments and enter the new year prepared to find happiness.

I want to wish everyone a happy, and healthy, holiday season. May the path you have chosen lead you to the happiness all people seek.

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