Growing Up

I heard once, of raising children, “The first 40 years are the hardest.” That could certainly be said of me for my parents, ha!

Last night, I posted on ye ol’ Facebook the invite to my “Forty Fabulous Forty!” birthday party, and I’m getting so excited. I can’t say what an amazing year this has been, to go through the last of what has been consistently traumatic family interaction to arrive at today. As I’ve said, it sorrows me that the successful solution seems to be estrangement, but I’m so consistently happy and productive since I struck out in this new way – giving up and giving in – that I must also conclude, again, that it was the right thing to do. It has given me precisely what Pema Chödrön promised it would: softening. I feel so much better!

Today, a passage in her book, “When Things Fall Apart/ Heart Advice for Difficult Times,” struck me with such peace and clarity that I have to quote the whole segment. I haven’t picked it up for months, so the timing was incredible, with my much-anticipated 40th merely 10 days away. (Or not incredible at all, really. 🙂 )

“When we feel squeezed, there’s a tendency for the mind to become small. We feel miserable, like a victim, like a pathetic, hopeless case. Believe it or not, at that moment of hassle or bewilderment or embarrassment, our minds could become bigger. Instead of taking what’s occurred as a statement of personal weakness or someone else’s power, instead of feeling we are stupid or someone else is unkind, we could drop all the complaints about ourselves and others. We could be there, feeling off guard, not knowing what to do, just hanging out there with the raw and tender energy of the moment. This is the place where we begin to learn the meaning behind the concepts and the words.

We’re so used to running from discomfort, and we’re so predictable. If we don’t like it, we strike out at someone or beat up on ourselves. We want to have security and certainty of some kind when actually we have no ground to stand on at all.

The next time there’s no ground to stand on, don’t consider it an obstacle. Consider it a remarkable stroke of luck. We have no ground to stand on, and at the same time it could soften and inspire us. Finally, after all these years, we could truly grow up. As Trungpa Rinpoche once said, the best mantra is, ‘OM – grow up – swaha.’

Finally! I am growing up. Phew! I held on to the mantra, “NOT FAIR!” for too long.

I have no ground to stand on but this ground, this beautiful earth, and I’m on it!
I’M FORTY!!!!!

“Having been so dissatisfied with my own and the world’s shortcomings, I would have thought myself a suicide by 30.” -Alice Walker

first 40 years
It was my therapist who said it. 🙂 She was right.

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Tonglen

I’ve just been introduced to the concept of Tonglen. In real time, my life is changed.

Tonglen instructs us to take IN suffering, injustice, rape, starvation, violence, filth, misunderstanding and heartache, and to breathe out understanding, connectedness, sameness, wellness, wholeness, a hand, love. I believe this practice can coexist with prior lessons I’ve learned on healing myself, which were to breathe in healing to the place that hurts – on the body, the mind, the spirit – and breathe out the rancor of pain.

It’s human nature to avoid things that sting. (It was a smart evolutionary trick. We’re still here.) We see all the time the disastrous consequences of turning a blind eye, but it’s what we tend to do when faced with discomfort. Tonglen says, instead, NO. Look at the perverse, hideous nature of pain. Take it. Feel it. Breathe it.

Tonglen makes me feel more related to everyone on the planet than I ever have before. We all know the alienation of fear and misunderstanding. In this life and in generations past, we have been the victims AND the perpetrators of crime. I breathe in pain, in solidarity with those who suffer right now. I breathe in pain because I know it. I breathe out relief in solidarity. I breathe out relief because I know it.

I know relief! Mine is yours. I’ll feel differently one day, but right now my peace is yours.
heart advice

Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön