There are times when the sun is shining and there are grateful breezes, yet the soul is suffering a hot season. A sticky, humid sadness rises relentlessly to the surface and the human instinct is to turn away. Even for me, one who has been preaching about holding and accepting the whole catastrophe of life for a long time now, whether it be the cool peace of good fortune or the disorienting blows of inevitable loss and change, I too am often caught by surprise.
How prepared are any of us when a loved one dies, a child gets sick, a relationship ends, or we face our own mortality? Would anyone ever want to enter willingly into these spiritual deserts? At first, our psyche gives us the anesthetic of denial. Running is usually involved in this, either literally or figuratively, and can include drinking, eating, shopping, sleeping, or any other number of means of escape. The sense of needing to flee is intense. But all matter of not looking at reality, no matter how effective, are temporary salves, just shock absorbers. Sooner or later, we need to become ready, to the best of our ability, to sit with those feelings that seem too hot to hold.
This is the well-worn course to weather difficult times. Some Buddhists call this “relaxing with what is”, allowing pain, grief, and sadness an open vessel (us) to have their way sort of speak. We learn to inquire into those emotions, describing what they feel like in the body, in a detached a way as possible. Feeling our feelings, but not judging them. Allowing space for all sorts of internal experiences to be here, now. I mean they’re here anyhow. If tears come, let them. Panic arises, we stay with it… spiritual warriors present to the storm. Not trying to do away with any of it, not forcing our pain to pass quickly. We can continue to attempt to skip the process, but areas of our lives which we avoid have an uncanny way of repeating themselves in different guises until we learn. We are beginning to discover a way to walk barefoot on the burning sand paths of our life’s journey.
I say beginning, because each new day, every present moment is a chance to practice. We may still run to our chosen addictions, from time to time, but we are more aware of what we are doing. We are more able to be comfortable in our discomfort, to allow for ambiguity without immediately seeking resolution.
Book of the Day When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
Quote from The Book of the Day: “When we have reminders of death, we panic. It isn’t just that we cut our finger, blood begins to flow, and we put on a Band-Aid. We add something extra-our style. Some of us just sit there stoically and bleed all over our clothes. Some of us get hysterical; we don’t just get a Band-Aid, we call the ambulance and go to the hospital. Some of us put on designer Band-Aids. But whatever our style is, it’s not simple. It’s not bare bones.”
“Can’t we just return to the bare bones? Can’t we just come back? That’s the beginning of the beginning… Come back to square one, just the minimum bare bones. Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time- that is the basic message.”