“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
This day 6 years ago I faced the scariest, most heart-breaking thing I have ever experienced in my life. I sat at the bedside of my step-father as he died. It was frightening to watch him leave us forever. It was frightening to be face to face with death in such a way. But on the other hand, it was also the most profound and life changing moment of my life, too. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
While the time between grief stretches out a bit longer these days, it still hurts when I think about it.
I don’t ever want it to ever stop hurting.
“The way to stop the war is to stop hating the enemy. It starts with seeing our opinions of ourselves and of others as simply our take on reality and not making them a reason to increase the negativity on the planet…
…It’s up to us to sort out what is opinion and what is fact then we can see intelligently. The more clearly we can see, the more powerful our speech and actions will be. The less our speech and actions are clouded by opinion, the more they will communicate, not only to the people polluting the rivers, but also to those who are going to put pressure on the people who are polluting the rivers.”
– Pema Chödrön . When Things Fall Apart; Heart Advice For Difficult Times.
I bought When Things Fall Apart about 6 years ago, when my stepdad died and never read it. It’s just been collecting dust on my bookshelf. A few weeks ago I attended a workshop for work and one of the speakers talked about the concept of self compassion and how it can help us as library workers in dealing with compassion fatigue (or Secondary Traumatic Stress). One of the books recommended was this one, so I thought I’d pick it up since I had it handy.
I am really glad I did. And I wish I’d picked it up a lot sooner. The name of the book put me off, I think. I think I felt like I had to be in a really bad place in order to read it, but, as it turns out, the book has a lot of practical advice for just everyday living. It is a classic American Buddisim text and very jargony, so I am not sure if non-buddhists would get much out of it, though I think if you are interested in learning about Buddhism from a practical standpoint this might be a good book to read. I have a lot of non-Buddhist friends who have read this and liked it though, so.
Anyway, I like it and recommend it. I just read this from the book a few minutes ago and feel like it is very timely, considering the circumstances of the world.
More on what I am learning about self-compassion in a later blog post.
A friend on Facebook posted the following Pema Chödrön quote:
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
I’ve been thinking about this the past few days. This idea of annihilation. Self Immolation is an idea that keeps popping into my head lately too.
No, I don’t want to light myself on fire, ending it all in a spectacular way.
It’s a metaphor for what has happened to me the past couple years. Which started with the annihilation of a life: Doug’s.
I think back on how that event changed me so profoundly. It utterly and completely broke my heart. But it didn’t just break my heart. It also broke all the crap around my heart I’d put there as an attempt to protect it. Shellac is the metaphor that comes to mind. I have spent my entire life painting shellac around my heart to protect it from breaking. But my effort wasn’t strong enough to protect it from Doug’s death. And so it broke and I’ve walked around with this heart that has been completely exposed to the elements for two years. It has been both very painful and very exhilarating. It’s kind of scary but it feels right. Like I’m living life.
So I was led to meditation which has helped to clear away the cobwebs in my head a bit (some of them are still there). And by doing this I have been able hear my intuition and trust it a bit more. This practice has led me down a path I really didn’t expect. “Everything you thought was real isn’t” was something that was said to me by a friend and fellow meditator early on in this process and I’m seeing the truth of that statement in a big way. Along with the shellacking of my heart, I’ve created some really ornate facades that seem to be crumbling down around me.
My ego is one of those facades. I was telling another friend on Facebook today that it feels like my ego has been beaten down to a bloody pulp.
So according to this article, my meditation practice is working (horror film, indeed). Most importantly this practice has helped me see the truth. It feels like I am burning up in a spectacular bonfire. And that hurts. But in the end what is left is what is real. What is left is that which is indestructible.