Thursday, November 4, 2010

Leaning into the Sharp Points


I am not a Buddhist. Truthfully, I am not even a Methodist. I am a subscriber to things that speak to me, make me think, and help me learn. So there. No need to call out for an exorcism. 

Pema, before (note sweater for later)

Pema now...

I have my own what if she doesn't know it? Her name is Pema Chodron. Some of you might have seen her on Oprah. I appreciate that she is a Buddhist nun, but she is also a mother and has been a wife in her past. Twice. She taught elementary school (and I think I have a sweater just like the one in her before photo). I like my female role models to have some perspective on the real things that happen in the life of a wife and mother (Can Oprah say the same?, she cannot.).  We (Pema and I) have our sessions together randomly, and mostly on YouTube....FREE-OF-CHARGE...

A few years ago when I met Pema in her book, "When Things Are Difficult", she told me that hope had no place in my world. WHAAAAAT?  In this time where HOPE is the new buzzword? As in "I HOPE I don't get laid off", "I HOPE I can find a job soon so I can pay my rent?", "I HOPE no one realizes I have no idea what I am doing..", etc. How discouraging...

"Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what is going on, but that there is something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world."
Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

I read these words myself during a time when I kept hoping that things in my tiny corner of the world would improve and was trying to impatiently wait it out. So, this was a downer of a thought initially.  However as I read further I came to see that she meant that it was a waste of time to spend hard days *HOPING* that things would get better in lieu of just accepting that things weren't good right now, may not be good for a while, and that there was nothing logical that I could do to speed up the course of the hard time except bear it until it was over. She called it "leaning into the sharp points". Pema told me that being happy and comfortable all the time were not what made us the people we become in our lives and that no bumps on the path mean no growth for the person. Well, fine then.

"…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are."
Pema Chödrön

At that time, I mustered up my strength and leeeeeeeaned in, stopped telling myself it would get better soon, (or, even worse, my mantra that I was FINE..) and truly bore the hard times until the day when I realized I had leaned THROUGH the sharp point until it's tip no longer pierced me. It was really freeing, actually. My hard times changed me and I learned a lot about what I wanted from myself and my life in that period. I added those lessons to my li'l book of tricks and carried them along my way for the next bump in the road. 

But I fail to look through my book of tricks often, and I am still trying to FIX things. SOLVE things, even for others. *sigh*. I really feel that if Pema really cared about me, she would move in with me and help me overcome having to SOLVE things and FIX problems and use logic as my favorite emotion.

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."
Pema Chödrön

I am trying, Pema. I really, really am. 

Get your Pema on...

"Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look."
Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

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