Are you miserable and discouraged with life? Did it ever occur to you that the problem might not be with life but with you? Or that you might be able to turn things completely around just by reframing whatever it is you’re dealing with?
If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches.
Rainer Maria Rilke
For example, if people are treating you poorly, this could be your opportunity to experience the transcendent power of kindness. It is easy to be kind when others are being kind to you. But to truly experience joy and the full majesty of your personal power, you need to rise above the petty feelings of your ego and respond with the loving kindness of your spirit.
A thousand years ago my neighbor said to me, “I hate life, for it is naught but a thing of pain.”
And yesterday I passed by a cemetery and saw life dancing upon his grave.
Or perhaps you’re disconsolate because nothing seems to go your way, you don’t have any money and you don’t have any idea of what you want to do with your life. It may be your life but by thinking, “It’s all about me, all the time,” you may be sabotaging your own happiness and fulfillment. Ever notice how many speakers and books tell you to do something nice for somebody else when you’re feeling miserable about your own life? There’s a reason for that. Not only will you be helping others, you will experience the joy of service, which is one of the major purposes of life on this planet.
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.
I had already started writing this post when my friend, Rachel Bid, asked if I had read a book called When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron. I checked it out and it does indeed look compelling. Here are some highlights from a review by Jesse Kornbluth:
Deirdre Blomfield-Brown married, moved to New Mexico, became a teacher, had two children. Nothing spectacular occurred to her — until the day in 1972 when her husband announced that he was having an affair and wanted a divorce.
As so often happens in that moment, her life “fell apart.”
“I couldn’t feel any ground under my feet,” she recalls. “It was devastating.”
One day, in a friend’s pickup truck, Blomfield-Brown saw a magazine that lay open to an article by Chögyam Trungpa. The title: “Working with Negativity.” The first line: “There’s nothing wrong with negativity.”
Blomfeld-Brown, then 36 years old, took this to mean: “There’s nothing wrong with what you’re going through. It’s very real, and it brings you closer to the truth.” It was, she says, “the first sane advice I had heard for someone in my situation. As I read, I kept nodding and saying to myself: ‘This is true.'”
Four years later, Deirdre Blomfield-Brown had taken Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche as her teacher and was an ordained Buddhist monk: Pema Chodron. In 1984, she would become head of the Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia. Now this grandmother of three is the best-known American — man or woman — writer on Tibetan Buddhism.
But that’s too limiting.
Pema Chodron may be a Buddhist scholar, but she doesn’t talk or write like one. In When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, she rarely uses technical terms. She comes across like your smart, no-nonsense next-door neighbor.
And she pierces all your armor.
We don’t get, she says, that fear is our friend. Or that it’s “a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” Instead, “we freak out when there’s even the merest hint of fear.” Which only makes our situation worse. And then everything falls apart — “we run out of options for escape.”
This is an important moment, she argues. Because this crisis isn’t just a test, it’s a healing. We can, we think, “solve” the problem. Only we can’t. And the sooner we learn that, the sooner we’ll feel better.
Things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
One thing she says we do know: “To stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge — that is the path of true awakening.”
Her solution: Learn to accept obstacles as friends. And accept that “nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
Feeling lost and weary, hurt and confused? Pema Chodron would say: What an opportunity to be more alive!
Click here to view all my posts on the transcendent power of kindness.
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