Friday, July 13, 2012

When Things Fall Apart: A Middle Way

Pema Chodron, "Widening the Circle of Compassion" (When Things Fall Apart, pp. 81-83)
"Things were going like this in my life" (Wisdom Quarterly/Conscious Life Expo, LAX Hilton)
(Pema Chodron)
Buddhist words such as compassion and emptiness don't mean much until we start cultivating our innate ability simply to be there with pain with an open heart and the willingness not to instantly try to get ground under our feet. 
For instance, if what we're feeling is rage, we usually assume that there are only two ways to relate to it. One is to blame others. Lay it all on somebody else; drive all blames into everyone else. The other alternative is to feel guilty about our rage and blame ourselves.
Blame is a way in which we solidify ourselves. Not only do we point the finger when something is "wrong," but we also want to make things "right." 
Not being right, not being wrong, but just being with what is -- it's an amazing way to be!
In any relationship that we stick with -- be it marriage or parenthood, employment, a spiritual community, or whatever -- we may also find that we want to make it "righter" than it is, because we're a little nervous.
Maybe it isn't exactly living up to our standards, so we justify it and justify it and try to make it extremely right. We tell everybody that our husband or wife or child or teacher or support group is doing some sort of peculiar antisocial thing for good spiritual reasons.
Or we come up with some dogmatic belief and hold on to it with a vengeance, again to solidify our ground. We have some sense that we have to make things right according to our standards. If we just can't stick with a situation any longer, then it goes over the edge and we make it wrong because we think that's our only alternative. Something's right or something's wrong.

A Middle Way
"It wasn't until the teachings touched my heart."
Instead of making others right or wrong, or bottling up right and wrong in ourselves, there's a middle way, a very powerful middle way.
We could see it as sitting on the razor's edge, not falling off to the right or the left. This middle way involves not hanging on to our version so tightly. It involves keeping our hearts and minds open long enough to entertain the idea that when we make things wrong, we do it out of a desire to obtain some kind of ground or security. 
Equally, when we make things right, we are still trying to obtain some kind of ground or security. Could our minds and our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we're not entirely certain about who's right and who's wrong?
Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right?
Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are?
It is powerful to practice this way, because we'll find ourselves continually rushing around to try to feel secure again -- to make ourselves or them either right or wrong. But true communication can happen only in that open space.

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