Depouillement–Monday Meanderings


Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

In French, the verb depouiller means to strip or to skin. It’s a harsh word. For me it conjures up images of bleeding or, at the very least, nakedness. It’s the word used to describe what happened to Jesus when they tore his clothes from his body before crucifying him.

That word came to me this morning when, during my quiet time. I sat facing the window, watching as a gentle breeze tore, one-by-one, the leaves from “my” tree. At this moment, the wind has become bitter and that same tree (now the upper branches outside my office window) is letting go of its leaves rapidly. It is being stripped.

I cannot but think of the Buddhist teaching of detachment, a teaching which seems to traverse all philosophies and religions–a concept that faces each of us as we age, begin to lose loved ones, strength, beauty, health, material and physical independence, perhaps even mental acuity. Life is, indeed a series of letting go’s.

I’m not Buddhist, but have always been drawn to many aspects of Buddhist practice. Today I came to understand with a bit more clarity, the importance of non-attachment. I’ve been struggling with an issue that I’ve perceived as a threat to my security and to something I hold dear. It dawned upon me that my attachment to that “something” was impairing my ability to enjoy the happiness of the moment and was messing, not only with my serenity, but also with my sleep. I made the intention to return to the present moment and its many joys. When the moment comes to let go, I hope to be like that tree, allowing the leaves to return to earth and nourish it.

I’m no longer young…or even, by most people’s estimation, middle-aged (though I don’t feel old). It’s time to accept those things in life that must leave us. I know myself well enough to realize that this won’t be the end of my wanting to hold on. But, perhaps, if I let go of the things I cling to, it won’t be quite so painful. Maybe I won’t even bleed.

Have a lovely week. Now I’m on my way outside to rake up some of those leaves.

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7 thoughts on “Depouillement–Monday Meanderings

  1. So often we think of letting go as “loss” or “giving up.” It carries a negative charge. Nothing could be further from the truth. As you (and the Buddha) say, it is the attachment that creates suffering: wanting things to remain as they are when we know they cannot; wanting to control things we have not control over–these are the sources of enormous consternation. Flowing with the natural rhythm of life–its ups and its downs–noticing without judging is the ideal. I haven’t figured out how to do that on a regular basis, but I try. And trying is better than not trying. Like eating or drinking or sleeping, finding our way out of suffering is not a one time thing. We have to practice it everyday of our lives.

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  2. janehewey says:

    Yours is beautiful and honest wisdom, Victoria. Life is a journey of heart and mind. Love and loss. Thanks for the hearty post today.

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  3. brian miller says:

    there is much to be said of acceptance…and detachment…while i am not buddhist, i tend to follow many of the practices and do enjoy reading a bit of the lit as i think there is wisdom there…the letting go is not easy….there are things i want to hold onto…the wisdom i think is in knowing what to let go and what to cling to…

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  4. non-attachment seems to have arrived for me a while back, and life is certainly easier if we don’t fight it.

    Don’t use energy to sweep up the leaves. The next gusts of wind will disperse them tidily for you.

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  5. The letting go, the being stripped bare can be a difficult process, one that I often struggle with.

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  6. scillagrace says:

    Beautiful lesson, Victoria. Non-attachment is a very important way to making peace. I like the parallels with nature and Jesus. I no longer consider myself a Christian, but I will always retain a deep respect for Jesus’ teachings. The way his suffering is portrayed makes me wonder if writers projected their own attachment into the story, while the actions & attitudes they attribute to Jesus are mainly non-attached. That juxtaposition is what makes the story a parable, wrestling with attachment/non-attachment.

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  7. Susan Chast says:

    Thank you for the parallel images of Jesus/branch/theee stripped down for the transformation. They are surprisingly reassuring Have a marvelous week.

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