The world is turning upside down, we feel dizzy and exhausted, and I remember the words of Pema Chodron, a wise Buddhist teacher. She says, “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and a kind of healing. We want to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that there is no resolution. Things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. They come together again and fall apart again. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
It takes a lot of patience to feel our feelings without bolting and running away, but if we want peace of mind, we have to try. It’s about getting smart and waiting. Not speaking or doing anything but being completely honest with ourselves about the fact that we’re absolutely furious. It can be hard to admit to anger when we’re on what we consider a spiritual path. But everyone feels it.
A friend of mine went on retreat with a guru who insisted on laughter, joy and what he saw as right action and kindness. He had no regard for anger or sadness and wouldn’t allow it in his followers. One afternoon, my friend was about to walk into the kitchen when she saw the guru making himself a sandwich. When he turned his back to get something, a dog rushed in and wolfed down the sandwich. The guru stared at the empty plate, looked to the right, looked to the left, and when he was satisfied that he was alone, he kicked the dog.
As we face a muddled world where the media frightens and paralyzes us, we want to kick the dog, but that isn’t a release valve. It only turns up the heat and makes us feel worse. And if you attempt to cover up your heated feelings, don’t think you’re putting one over on anyone. They can feel your aggression and your rage. It’s like you’re sitting on top of keg of dynamite and it’s vibrating, ready to go off at any moment, and everyone can see it.
After a lifetime of self-investigation and practicing mindfulness, even when I’m sure I’m right about something, I know there are a multitude of people who disagree with me. I know that I can’t fix things or change other people’s opinions. I can only take the time to change my own and be the person I want to see in others.
Finding patience is a task in the best of times so when life seem irreversibly jumbled up and moving in the wrong direction, the only choice we have is whether we shut down or open up. The first one, shutting down, appears easier but it only causes more pain. Opening up, the tougher choice, allows us to soften and find compassion for ourselves at a time when it seems like everything is falling apart.
When life feels unmanageable and out of control, do you numb out or feel your feelings?