Saturday, May 11, 2013

When the World Knocks, What Do You Do?

Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us. ~ Pema Chodron

While in my favorite local used book store recently, I came across this book titled "When Things Fall Apart," by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun.

As I began reading it, her voice reminded me of Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love). I've quoted her many times. The same day I thought that, I glanced at Gilbert's recent FB post on her fanpage inquiring what everyone's favorite "spiritual memoirs" have been in their life — books that have really resonated with them and helped them on their path. At the top of her list, "When Things Fall Apart," by Pema Chodron.

If I could recommend a book right now, this would be it. She takes in depth concepts, beliefs, truths and lays them out in such a readable, reverberating way.

She talks a lot about letting go, about being good to ourselves and to others, about groundlessness, egolessness, surrendering to "what is," staying present and creating space for things, being in harmony with reality and embracing all emotions, seeing them as complimentary rather than positive or negative.

I really loved the quote I opened up with because it got me thinking about life and death, not in the traditional way, per se, but in the everyday, every moment way.

Think about it — the impermanence of life is everywhere. It's in the in breath, the out breath, the passing away of one moment while giving birth to the next ... the minute hand on a clock, the four seasons, the sun rising and setting.

Yet for some reason, our minds don't like impermanence. We strive to control everything, we don't like being honest with ourselves, we don't like loosening our grip on anything. And speaking as someone who has been terrified of death since I can remember, the idea of it is unimaginable.

From moment to moment, our minds think about the things we wish were different, the things we don't like, the things we want to change, the desires we aren't meeting, the voids we can't seem to fill. So we run away, we eat our voids, we wallow or we distract, we seek out temporary gratification, we constantly try to fill any "space" in our lives rather than embrace the space ... allow the quiet in.

Get comfortable with lonely or with fear, welcome it, let it sit with you as you take in each moment of life; realize it's not your enemy, it's your teacher.

In fact, all moments, emotions, experiences, obstacles or hurdles in life are our greatest teachers. If you notice something continues to surround you in life or continues to "get in your way," whether you like it or not, that often means whatever it is you're supposed to be learning, you haven't. If you feel like nothing you do is changing the things you want to change, perhaps you're not looking deep enough, perhaps you're not being honest enough with yourself.

Let go ... let yourself experience that moment to moment annihilation. Embrace that impermanence.

I was always such a romantic as a little girl and well into my early adulthood. Life experience and the path I'm on now has altered that part of me. It's not that I've lost that romance ... on the contrary; the things I'm romantic about in life have merely shifted and deepened. It's not until you embrace impermanence that you truly appreciate every single passing moment of your life, that you find the romance in what was once a "mundane" action. You realize each moment dies upon the next and you no longer take for granted yourself or those close to you.

In the moments I am "out of my head" and in my heart and soul, I feel groundless, flooded with life, terrified, elated, full of love, fearful of hurt, passionate, compassionate ... instead of closing off, I'm learning to open my arms to it all. Without pain, we couldn't enjoy pleasure, without loss, we don't know the significance of what we have.

Without impermanence and change, we couldn't possibly know the importance of the present moment, of the here and now.

As Pema says, "Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth."

So next time you feel anxious or scared, view that feeling as a teacher rather than an enemy, figure out what it's telling you about yourself. Be honest with yourself.

Because once your intimate with fear or loneliness, with impermanence, change, discomfort, you'll find all your dramas, conflicts, struggles fall away ... and the world around you, the life knocking at your door will finally get through.

And the real you, the indestructible you ... will be there to greet it.


1 comment:

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