"Nothing Goes Away Until It Has Taught Us What We Need to Know!" Pema Chodron
In Pema Chodron's book, When Things Fall Apart, she offers many important insights to help us move through our suffering. For me, perhaps the most important wisdom is when she says: "We can stop struggling with our pain and see its true face without calling it the enemy!"
It is becoming obvious to many of us that whether personally or globally, we have to learn how to relate sanely with difficult times. Pema offers three methods to do this and I share this today, because everywhere I turn people are struggling and suffering and looking to the outer world for relief. Yet, it is our inner world that provides the relief we are so desperately searching for.
The first method, called no more struggle, we enter into a meditation practice to stop fighting with ourselves ... whatever arises, we can look at with a nonjudgmental attitude. When we let the narrative and the stories go, the innermost essence of the mind is without bias. Things arise fleetingly and dissolve fleetingly and that is just the way it is. It is not our enemy, it is not about accomplishing anything, but instead, ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is.
The second method of working with chaos and pain is using poison as medicine. Here Pema suggests we can use the painful situation (poison) as fuel for waking up. Instead of trying to get rid of it we breathe into it. The three poisons she identifies are passion (craving or addiction), aggression, and ignorance. Normally, we would think of these poisons as something bad and to be avoided; but the attitude here is letting them become seeds of compassion and openness, not just for ourselves, but for all people.
The third method for working with pain and suffering is to regard whatever arises as the manifestation of awakened energy. The elemental struggle is with our feeling of being wrong, with our guilt and shame at what we are. Pema tells us that's what we have to befriend. When we do, we dissolve the sense of dualism between us and them, by moving toward what we find difficult and wish to push away.
In the next few newsletters, I will explore each method more deeply. For now, let us each remember in every moment of time, we make a choice. We can let our story lines go and associated judgments; we can examine our attitude on a daily basis and adjust it toward self-awakening; and we can acknowledge that suffering exists and whether we regard our situation as heaven or hell depends on our perception.
What choices are you making on a daily basis? Can you offer yourself a break, lower your expectations. and relax as life is? Throu all of this, are you willing to embrace what your lesson?