Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

Staying in the middle, letting the softness speak

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Image courtesy Julie Bond Genovese

After moving for the first time in 35 years, and accompanying my mother-in-law during the final days of her life over these last weeks, I hit a wall.

It was a big one, a hard one. And I hit it hard.

Photo: Kathy Gilman

My heart — Spirit’s intended home, by Divine design — felt … adrift. Muffled or, much as my mother-in-law had been, knowing what it wanted to say, but unable to make her mouth say it. When she worked very hard to get the words out, you often had to practically have your ear against her lips to hear it. This is something like what my heart was feeling, too.

Along came heartfelt words from Pema Chödrön to the rescue:

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”

And, a longer read, but right to the heart of the matter:

“We are told about the pain of chasing after pleasure and the futility of running from pain. We hear also about the joy of awakening, of realizing our interconnectedness, of trusting the openness of our hearts and minds.

“But we aren’t told all that much about this state of being in-between, no longer able to get our old comfort from the outside but not yet dwelling in a continual sense of equanimity and warmth.

“Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the in-between state. It‘s the kind of place we usually want to avoid. The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid. Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere only makes our hearts more tender. When we are brave enough to stay in the middle, compassion arises spontaneously. By not knowing, not hoping to know, and not acting like we know what’s happening, we begin to access our inner strength.

“Yet, it seems reasonable to want some kind of relief. If we can make the situation right or wrong, if we can pin it down in any way, then we are on familiar ground. But something has shaken up our habitual patterns and frequently they no longer work. Staying with volatile energy gradually becomes more comfortable than acting out or repressing it. This open-ended tender place is called bodhichitta. Staying with it is what heals. It allows us to let go of our self-importance. It’s how the warrior learns to love”.        ~ Pema Chödrön

(From The Places That Scare You)
https://pemachodronfoundation.org/…/the-places-that-scare-…/

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5 thoughts on “Staying in the middle, letting the softness speak

  1. I do hope you’re finding it easier to cope with that uneasy in-between state now. Those are two of those great life stresses, aren’t they, the death of someone close and a house move; when one’s thus disorientated it’s hard to regain the equilibrium we took for granted.

  2. Wonderful and true. Thank you so much for this!

  3. Your posts are like soft, kind bolsters every day, Jane.

  4. Oddly enough you have been on my mind, Phyllis. Perhaps it came from of the interconnectedness you wrote about and we have spoken about in the past. I’m grateful that you shared the place you found yourself in – there’s healing in writing about loss, despair, change, etc., but you already know this. Writers are like physicians in this way. As writers, we know that writing from within will help us get from point A to point B but we sometimes forget this, just as some physicians I know will scold their patients for not going to see them when something is amiss with the body; however, they are notorious for avoiding taking care of themselves by seeing a physician when they become ill. I’m sending big hugs and lots of love to you.

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