“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I was breathless as a sense of loss swept through me. The Tibetan monks had just washed away a sand mandala, an intricate art piece that took them weeks to build using millions of grains of colored sand. This process of creation and destruction was an exercise in living in the present without attachment. Attachment, according to Buddhist philosophy, causes suffering when change inevitably comes.

In that moment, I recalled a time when I had lost several large paintings that had taken me months to complete. I had cried for days afterwards, overwhelmed by the loss. But right then, as I watched the monks let go, I knew that I had a lesson to learn. The monks created for no other purpose than pure enjoyment; I created for the sake of possessing the finished piece.

This mentality permeated many aspects of my life. I was intensely attached to material possessions, people, and situations. I found it difficult to relax and simply enjoy the journey. Instead, I lived for the future, meticulously planning and relentlessly driving toward my goal. To me, the end product was the crowning jewel of any venture.

I finally began to understand that my focus on results prohibited me from enjoying experiences for their own sake. I had been robbing myself of the joy of being fully immersed in the present moment – a moment in which I should have been feeling and being, not just thinking and doing.

With my one wild and precious life, I will wash away my own mandalas.

I will let go. I will let go to live.

— May Lam