The Phantom Limb
Updated: Dec 24, 2021
I remember having read about 'The Phantom Limb' in my surgery text books. It is a really intriguing phenomenon. Let me explain! This phantom limb syndrome is observed in at least 90- 98% amputees. They are unable to recognise that the amputated limb is no longer a part of their body. The pain, the itch, the numbness and other such sensations that made the presence of the limb real, continue unabated. This leads to the illusion of the limb being intact. This is because the memories of the limb are intact, due to previous neural connections in the brain. It takes about 2-3 years for a person to overcome the phantom limb syndrome.
We all suffer from our own psychological version of the phantom limb. We all find it very difficult to move on after a friendship/ relationship ends, after people move away, or their time on earth ends. We find it difficult if we have to move away from home to a new place. The yearning for the old and the familiar, tugs at the heartstrings. This pinning for the old and familiar can sometimes be so severe that it makes us unable to function efficiently.
I wish that we could approach life as a simple but beautiful walk through the woods. Sometimes we stop to play with the gurgling brook and at other times we stop to lie down in the grass, as the sun warms our face. At yet another time, we stop to smell the flowers and smile at their vibrant colours. Later, we know that we must walk onwards, but there is no regret in leaving all these behind. We don't ever regret the sun finally setting; we just enjoy it while it lasts.
Why is it not as easy in the context of relationships, career changes, money, material goods or even achievements and accolades that we have earned or accumulated throughout our life? Does it have to do anything with the pronoun ‘My’ or ‘Ours’. Uhhh hmmm! Well what a spectacular discovery. Yes and No!! We did know this at some subconscious level. Yet, right now this knowledge being rediscovered and made conscious generates the “Ah-ha!” feeling.
We never use the words ‘My’ or ‘Our’ with regards to the sun, the rain, the breeze... However it is My car, My wife, My job, My money, My children and My home.
Why not enjoy people and relationships and possessions in the same way? Why not make happy memories while the good times last and leave gracefully, when our time is over in someone's life or when someone passes over. Why regret and grieve? Why cling to the past and resist the change?
I am reminded of a beautiful story that will help us to seamlessly move ahead in life.
“You see this beautiful goblet?” asks Ajahn Chah, the Thai meditation master. “For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course!’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”