“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.