Embracing the groundlessness of our situation
The title of this article is one that crossed my path some years ago. It belonged to a piece I read from the author Pema Chodron. In her writing, she beautifully describes resistance to uncertainty and change. I saved it because it spoke to my heart so deeply. Since the presidential election, I have not met or talked with one person who didn’t feel dazed with the results. So I thought Pema’s description of uncertainty and change was the perfect piece to pass on.
“It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom – freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.”
Whether we’re talking about the election results, not having enough money, or relationship issues, it’s not always easy to release the fear that comes when change threatens our values and level of comfort. To suddenly feel vulnerable and groundless feels like a punch in the stomach; first a loss of breath, and next trying to find balance again. When life throws me a curve ball, the contrast of the situation inspires deeper aspects of myself to rise up like the phoenix and take action.
In response to the election results, I’ve asked myself, “What can I do to help more people? What direction should I take?” The next day, as if to answer my first question, I was outside standing in line at an ATM waiting for an elderly man ahead of me to finish his transactions. I could see he was completely confused staring into the monitor trying to understand what it was asking him. I walked over and asked if I could help. He looked up at me with such sweet eyes and said, “I’m trying to withdraw some money but I don’t know what it’s asking me to do.” As I read the monitor, it was requesting his pin number. I asked him to enter his pin number but he couldn’t remember it. He searched his wallet for the answer while receipts were falling to the ground. He was feeling frustrated with himself and mentioned his wife died three years ago and he now handles these tasks by himself. “I’ll just go home and see if I can find it there,” he said. “Instead of going home, why don’t you just go to the bank?” I suggested. He lit up and said, “Okay, that’s a great idea.” He suddenly had “ground” under his feet and found freedom from the little struggle that completely stopped his attempt to cope. Sometimes we just need a little help.
As we slowly approach the season of light and the end of another year, I wanted to pass on an excerpt from Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. She offers 10 guideposts for wholehearted living.
Cultivate authenticity: let go of what people think.
Cultivate self-compassion: let go of perfectionism.
Cultivate a resilient spirit: let go of numbing and powerlessness.
Cultivate gratitude and joy: let go of scarcity and fear of the dark.
Cultivate intuition and trusting faith: let go of the need for certainty.
Cultivate creativity: let go of comparison.
Cultivate play and rest: let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
Cultivate calm and stillness: let go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
Cultivate meaningful work: let go of self-doubt and “supposed to.”
Cultivate laughter, song and dance: let go of being cool and “always in control.”
Take a deep breath and move toward whatever enlivens you. Fill yourself with the courage and freedom to take that first baby step. I wish each of you happy holidays and a peaceful heart.