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Reflections

Others will always show you exactly where you are stuck. They say or do something and you automatically get hooked into a familiar way of reacting—shutting down, speeding up, or getting all worked up. When you react in the habitual way, with anger, greed, and so forth, it gives you a chance to see your patterns and work with them honestly and compassionately. Without others provoking you, you remain ignorant of your painful habits and cannot train in transforming them into the path of awakening.

Excerpted from: The Compassion Book: Teachings for Awakening the Heart by Pema Chödrön, pages 26–27

reflectionsThere are days that these teachings resonate more profoundly for me than others. This teaching was just what I needed right now, in this moment.

I try to take each experience, whether positive or negative, and find its teachable moment. Of course, the negative experiences are harder– emotions tend to get in the way, such as anger, helplessness, betrayal, guilt, shame, and deflection. I falter and fail much of the time, indulging in the self-serving desires to blame others, justify my own re/actions, and ignore the suffering that my indulgence causes to both myself and others. But I find that pushing through the emotional aspects is most often well worth the effort.

This teaching does not attempt to prevent us from our “familiar way of reacting”, but instead instructs us to use those familiar ways as teachings in themselves. We see our reactions and compassionationately work with them in the moment of greatest need. In the same way that we learn to ride a bike, we must feel the loss of balance and our bodies’ reactions to it, experience the way we correct ourselves– or overcorrect– and then deal with the consequences of how we react. We could study from a book how to ride a bike and read how the author describes the body’s reaction to balance shifts, but until we are physically attempting the bike, knowing the pain of road rash and the exhiliration of triumph with the wind blowing back our hair, we cannot know what it means to ride a bike.

This is the glorious nature of this teaching! It’s calling us to explore our own selves in an attempt to grow, to learn, to be a better whatever we already are– and perhaps our improvement will create ripples around us, creating a better relationship, community, professional life, and so forth. It is only through our self-reflections and work that we can create change in the world around us.

 

Healing Room

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

~ Pema Chödrön

img_0710As I’ve read books by some of my favorite spiritual teachers, their words, snippets here and there, have resonated deeply with me; however, this particular quote truly blossomed for me over the last year, becoming real to me in a way I could never have anticipated.

While I won’t discuss the details, I was put into the position of making a professional ethical decision that was incredibly painful to make, but one that I never waivered or questioned for a second. I know that I did the right thing; however, sometimes doing the right thing is the most difficult path to travel. My professional purpose was pummeled into the ground and my passion for the important work that I do was decimated. Everything that I once loved about my career became torturous.

The most painful and heartwrenching part of this journey was learning that those I valued and trusted, looked to for support and guidance, were not the people I thought they were. I became angry, hurt, distrustful and resentful. For a short time, I was unable to find comfort in the teachings that had always grounded me before. I was devastated.

And then I simply stopped fighting it. I allowed the negativity to wash over and through me, watching it, feeling it, acknowledging it, for what it was.

Finally, I returned to Pema Chödrön and read these words: they finally made sense. My experience was a painful one– one of many pains and joys and triumphs and failures on this journey. I gave myself permission to feel those things. I also recognized that things will get better, eventually. Things come together and they fall apart. I found comfort in that realization.

Once the negative emotions began to subside, I created the intention of finding my compassion. I sought to find the sufferings of others that hurt me and give them a measure of compassionate thought. I gave myself compassion, as well.

It’s been a tough year in so many ways, but I’m finding resiliency, forgiveness, compassion and hope along the way.