They are like dreams or flowers in air: foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong: such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.
~ Hsin Hsin Ming (606AD)
Two years ago I was embroiled in a vicious lawsuit that started to turn me sour. I was freaked out by the majority of it, but particularly by the financials, as the costs really began to soar. The amount of time and work I had invested had become overwhelming. It involved another professional, someone with whom I had a history, and not a particularly good one, either. Obvious or not, we were in a lawsuit against each other, and so the bad blood was flowing.
This piece is about a universal truth—that there is no gain or loss in the universe. As an ancient principle, understood by the Zen masters, it is backed today by the known physical laws. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy in a closed system (the universe) can neither be created nor destroyed—it can only transform. It is called a conservation law, because along with mass, momentum, angular momentum and charge, we recognize that certain properties of the universe remain invariable.
Another physical principle relevant to our discussion today is mass-energy equivalence. Made famous by the equation E=mc2, it states that mass and energy are interchangeable—each one a property of the other. In other words, all things that have mass also contain energy, and all things energetic have a particle equivalent. These two principles are at the root of what I wish to convey: You can never lose a thing. All mass and energy are conserved in the universe—therefore, loss is an illusion.
Seeing the Other Side
When we perceive that we have lost something, we are simply not seeing the other side. We become blind—or ignorant—to the gain portion of the equation; in other words, we don’t see where we are gaining. This ignorance actually keeps us down—it keeps us stagnant. If we were to just look hard enough, bearing in mind the law of conservation, and thus, that the other side must exist—we would eventually find it. And as a result, we would grow. The Ancient Chinese called it Tao or “The Way”…and within it lay the understanding that gain and loss are just illusions.
Most of us come to the realization, over time, that “all was not lost.” For some of us, we have to stretch the imagination to pretend like we haven’t lost that much, yet I would argue that this approach is still operating within the perspective of gain-and-loss. The real power comes from seeing the two sides present in the moment, during the chaos and the uncertainty. If successful, the end-result is expansion—of our character, of our mind, and of our spirit. Believe me, it’s worth the effort to look.
During my own dilemma, I was stressed out because I believed that I was losing a load of money (the bills were in the tens of thousands). Also, things were getting down and dirty—I saw more of the dark side of the legal world than had I ever imagined, or cared to, and was resentful because it was a lesson that I wasn’t actively seeking.
And the time! I had invested long hours compiling paperwork and helping put together the details of the case; it was not insignificant, especially since I had a thriving chiropractic practice to run, and my business was getting busier by the day.
Then it hit me—my business is getting busier every day. Wait…I knew the principle…I just wasn’t applying it. No gain, no loss…where was the transformation? Well, my practice had picked up massively since the start of the case, and I was earning far more than the lawsuit was costing (I paid the difference in pain, if you’re wondering about the balance).
I kept looking. Oh yes, I was also experiencing far fewer problems with insurance companies, dissatisfied clients or staff; in fact, life at the office was unusually smooth. I kept looking: My home life had become rather tame too—no drama from mama or the girls—shoot, I couldn’t complain about any of that!
I kept looking. Well, the education I was receiving about life, about the law, and about a reality that we all have to face at one time or another—that people have conflict, and the legal system is the customary route for solving disputes (well, better than a duel, anyway), and therefore, nearly impossible to avoid—it was probably more than I could ever pick up in a book or classroom.
So even though I ended up losing the case, my business grew and so did my income; I was wiser, and thus, that much more influential, and I expanded in character and awareness—that was worth it to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for a thing. I got to see the law of conservation up close and personal, and I am convinced of its universality.
One can even change one’s awareness with regard to the perceived loss of people—but that is for another piece altogether. Just know that the first law of thermodynamics always applies—that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; no gain, no loss—and so our loved ones are all around us, all the time. It’s simply our illusions that keep us from seeing so.