"I used to have a sign pinned on my wall that read 'Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us'. Somehow, even before I heard the Buddhist teachings, I knew that this was the spirit of true awakening….
Nevertheless, when the bottom falls out and we can't find anything to grasp, it hurts a lot. It's like the Naropa Institute motto: "Love of the truth puts you on the spot." We might have some romantic view of what that means, but when we are nailed to the truth, we suffer. We look in the bathroom mirror, and there we are with our pimples, our aging face, our lack of kindness, our aggression and timidity - all that stuff.
This is where tenderness comes in . When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality. There is definitely something tender and throbbing about groundlessness.
…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we're holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we'd rather collapse and back away. They're like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we're stuck….
The people and events in our lives who trigger our unresolved issues could be regarded as good news… Each day we're given many opportunities to open up or shut down. The most precious opportunity presents itself when we come to the place where we think we can't handle whatever is happening. It's too much. It's gone too far. We feel bad about ourselves. There's no way we can manipulate the situation to make ourselves come out looking good. No matter how hard we try, it just won't work. Basically, life has just nailed us.
It's as if you just looked at yourself in the mirror, and you saw a gorilla. You try to angle the mirror so you will look a little better, but no matter what you do, you still look like a gorilla. That's being nailed by life, the place where you have no choice except to embrace what's happening or push it away.
Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape – all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can't stand it. There are so many ways that have been dreamt up to entertain us away from the moment, soften it's hard edge, deaden it so we don't have to feel the full impact of the pain that arises when we cannot manipulate the situation to make us come out looking fine.
…Our personal demons come in many guises. We experience them as shame, as jealousy, as abandonment, as rage. They are anything that makes us so uncomfortable that we continually run away. We do the big escape: we act out, say something, slam a door, hit someone, or throw a pot as a way of not facing what's happening in our hearts. Or we shove the feelings under and somehow deaden the pain. We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters in our minds.
…The most fundamental aggression is to ourselves, to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently….
…The more we relate to others, the more quickly we discover where we are blocked, where we are unkind, afraid, shut down. Seeing this is helpful, but it is also painful. Often the only way we know how to react is to use it as ammunition against ourselves. We aren't kind. We aren't honest. We aren't brave, and we might as well give up right now. But when we apply the instruction to be soft and nonjudgemental to whatever we see right at that moment, that this embarrassing reflection in the mirror becomes our friend. Seeing that reflection becomes motivation to soften further and lighten up more, because we know it's the only way we can continue to work with others and be of any benefit to the world.
That's the beginning of growing up. As long as we don't want to be honest and kind with ourselves, then we are always going to be infants. When we begin to accept ourselves, the ancient burden of self-importance lightens up considerably.”
- Pema Chodron
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