A few years ago I read Pema Chodron’s book “When Things Fall Apart” when I was going through the most difficult time of my life and it helped me enormously. I underlined it and re-read it and it was one of the ways I survived the break-up of my marriage, my mother’s death and my daughter moving away from home.
I decided now is a good time to re-read it and so every day I’m going to read just one page and some days I will write about it. Today I read the first page of the introduction and Pema mentions that in 1995 she took a sabbatical and “essentially did nothing.” She read and hiked and slept. She meditated and wrote. She said she had no agenda, and no shoulds. That alone sounds like a great accomplishment in a society that values achievement, to step back and take time off. I wonder if that was also the year she spent in silence. I wish I could do something like that and maybe someday I will.
She also spent the year reading the writing she had done over the years from her teachings and she discovered that she talked a great deal about maitri (loving kindness towards oneself) and from that practice, a fearless compassionate attitude towards others’ pain.
Last night I went to Friends In Deed’s Tuesday night group and it was a very large meeting (they are about to go on vacation, so I guess many people felt the need to be there.) I noticed how much compassion I felt towards most people, but there was one person whose pain was so intense, it made me uncomfortable. I have to work on that, because sometimes pain is extremely intense and unbearable. I did feel compassion, but I also had a difficult time allowing myself to connect with this particular woman. She is definitely in a period of “groundlessness” – uncharted territory.
In Pema’s words, “dissolving the dualistic tension between us and them, this and that, good and bad, by inviting in what we usually avoid” – made me think about how I reacted to this woman. And I hope that during these next few weeks, she will be able to cope with all the fear and find her way through a maze of doctors and treatments and decisions.