Other People’s Writing: Dec 31st

I had a different piece of writing picked for today but then I got a piece of news yesterday that sent me to Pema Chödrön’s writing in When Things Fall Apart. Pema Chödrön is a Buddhist nun that writes so intimately about groundlessness, that moment when we can’t find anything solid to stand on to pretend we have it all together. Oh, how I love my life when I’m not experiencing groundlessness – but wow, how much I’ve learned when I have.

And here’s what sent me to this place. First, before Christmas my son caught the bug going around daycare so he had to be out sick a couple of days. Next I got sick. Then we were all well and the scheduled holidays with no school and daycare happened. Fine – I’ve now missed about 6 days of work in December but some of those were expected and I’m rolling with it.

Then it snows in Seattle. And Seattle is ridiculous when it snows so 2 more days of daycare for my son this last week were canceled. Then, and this was the latest, Seattle Public Schools just announced they are canceling school for my 1st grader on Monday, January 3rd so they can hand out COVID tests. <scream>

How the heck am I supposed to be responsible, professional and earn a living when the ground beneath my feet is always shifting? The fact that I know I’ve typed that question in practical terms in order to gain the most sympathy tells me that I’ve at least gained some consciousness about my situation. Groundlessness is like a patch of ice on a mountain – the trick is not to dig in and try to plant your feet but instead walk lightly across letting your momentum work for you.

For me, this COVID era has been one big patch of ice. I’ve always figured out a way through before and I know that I will again. Re-reading Pema’s words reminds me that in moments like these that I get to learn so much as I do so.

Basically, disappointment, embarrassment, and all these places where we just cannot feel good are a sort of death. We’ve just lost our ground completely; we are unable to hold it together and feel that we’re on top of things. Rather than realizing that it takes death for there to be birth, we just fight against the fear of death.

Reaching our limit is not some kind of punishment. It’s actually a sign of health that, when we meet the place where we are about to die, we feel fear and trembling. A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. Things like disappointment and anxiety are messengers telling us that we’re about to go into unknown territory.

…How do we work with our minds when we meet our match? Rather than indulge or reject our experience, we can somehow let the energy of the emotion, the quality of what we’re feeling, pierce us to the heart. This is easier said than done, but it’s a noble way to live. It’s definitely the path of compassion – the path of cultivating human bravery and kindheartedness.

In the teachings of Buddhism, we hear about egolessness. It sounds difficult to grasp: what are they talking about, anyway? When the teachings are about neurosis, however, we feel right at home. That’s something we really understand. But egolessness? When we reach our limit, if we aspire to know that place fully – which is to say that we aspire to neither indulge nor repress – a hardness in us will dissolve. We will be softened by the sheer force of whatever energy arises – the energy of anger, the energy of disappointment, the energy of fear. When it’s not solidified in one direction or another, that very energy pierces us to the heart, and it opens us. This is the discovery of egolessness. It’s when all of our schemes fall apart. Reaching our limit is like finding a doorway to sanity and the unconditional goodness of humanity, rather than meeting an obstacle or punishment.

…If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. This is the first step on the path.

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

(featured photo from Pexels)

19 thoughts on “Other People’s Writing: Dec 31st

  1. “Groundlessness” will be with us as long as we’re still treading this earth’s paths Wynne. My ‘groundlessness’ solace is scripted in 2 Cor.12, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

    Stay the course sister. You and your little ones have my prayers that “He who brought you to it will bring you through it.”
    He stands on solid ground

    All the best for all His best in 2022.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a beautiful and comforting comment. Thank you, Fred! A lovely piece of scripture and a wonderful maxim for making it through anything and everything.

      Sending all my best to you and your family, Fred! Happy New Year!

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  2. Thank you, Wynne. I needed this today. This encapsulates everything I had been trying to process the last few weeks and have had challenges doing so. Groundlessness is such an apt word and so astutely captures this gray feeling heading into the new year.

    The passage you shared and the concept of egolessness is a good one to reflect on for me on the final hours of 2021.

    So thank you! 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I helped you put a name to it. I really like the word groundlessness too. Something about being able to name it always helps me.

      I suspect that you and I share a lot of the same trepidation about our kids and 2022. May we find some comfort in navigating these waters together and get to the other side of this thing SOON! 🙂

      Happy New Year, Ab!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The life of a solo-working-mother is often filled with one trial following another. During my parenting days, I observed that they came three at a time. Sometimes, we just need to slow down, recoup, and keep moving forward. Here’s hoping that everything works out well soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the rule of threes. Such an interesting observation. Rosaliene. But I love your wisdom to slow down, recoup and keep moving. Thank you for this gift of a comment. Sending my best to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing!!.. “When one suddenly finds oneself in a swamp up to one’s armpits in alligators, it is difficult to remember the objective was to drain the swamp”.. I am sure that you will overcome and remember to drain the swamp… “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” (Roy T. Bennett )… 🙂

    Hope all is well and irregardless of life’s challenges, you and your family have a wonderful Happy New Year and the year is filled with peace, love and happiness and life is all that you wish for it to be and until we meet again… 🙂
    May your troubles be less
    Your blessings be more
    And nothing but happiness
    Come through your door
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Don’t be pushed around the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” – What a beautiful quote Thank you for that, Dutch!

      So grateful to have met you this year, Dutch. Hoping you’ve had a lovely New Years and wishing you all the best in 2022!

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  5. When the ground seems to shift from underneath me, I place myself in more of a trusting mode with the universe, for I have been shown time and again that it has my back and is working everything out on my behalf even when it doesn’t look that way at all! Last year when I was unemployed and job searching, I placed myself into that mindset for all those months and it helped my anxiety and mental health!

    The universe certainly had my back when a recruiter called me out of the blue offering me a temporary job. Normally I’d have said no because I wanted a permanent job and temp jobs drained me of job searching energy, but this time I had a strong feeling to accept it. I’m very grateful I did listen to that nudge the universe gave me, because it turned into a permanent position!

    Wishing you a wonderful 2022!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that’s such a good perspective, Tamara. Yes, lean in to trust the Universe – so much wisdom in that. And I love hearing how you’ve seen all the threads come together in your life!

      Hope you’ve have a great New Years and wishing you all the best in 2022!

      Liked by 1 person

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