This week had some challenges for me and I felt myself slipping back into anxiety about the future, rather than living in the moment and feeling acceptance and gratitude for my life.
I could make a long list of all the blessings and miracles that have occurred for me this past year, but I'll save that for another time. Yesterday, I realized that what I needed to do was go back to the beginning of my journey and read Pema Chodron. I know that there are many spiritual guides (in fact, I have to continue reading "A New Earth" since last night, someone pulled it out of his briefcase and said, "I am learning so much from this, it's blowing me away. Especially the section on the pain-body" - so that's my next reading.)
But yesterday, I read this from Pema Chodron's "The Places that Scare You" and it really helped. I love the idea of being a warrior, not a victim:
"The Path of the bodhisattva-warrior
Wherever we are, we can train as a warrior. The practices of meditation, loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity are our tools. With the help of these practices, we can uncover the soft spot of bodhisattva, the tenderness of the awakened heart. We will find that tenderness in sorrow and gratitude. We will find it behind the hardness of rage and in the shakiness of fear. It is available in loneliness as well as in kindness.
Many of us prefer practices that will not cause discomfort, yet at the same time we want to be healed. But bodhichitta training doesn't work that way. A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next. We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not knowing is part of the adventure and it's also what makes us afraid.
Bodhichitta training offers no promise of happy endings. Rather this "I" who wants to find security - who wants something to hold on to - can finally learn to grow up. The central question of a warrior's training is not how we avoid uncertainty and fear but how we relate to discomfort. How do we practice with difficulty, with our emotions, with the unpredictable encounters of an ordinary day?"
For me, it's also putting out my desires and living with the consequences of taking risks. It's seems so easy to play it safe, but it is also deadening. When I take a risk and have to live with the uncertainty, it's painful, but it also feels exciting too, like getting on the trapeze and letting go of one swing and reaching for the next. (Or would it be one set of hands and reaching for the next?) Actually, even just getting on a trapeze is terrifying.
I remember when my daughter went to New Zealand and told us she went sky diving. I couldn't believe she had the nerve to do it - it certainly hadn't been her style before that - and I was so thrilled for her. (And pray she never does it again.) I think that life needs to be an adventure - not necessarily sky diving and trapezes, but taking chances with relationships, and work that really matters to us, and trying things that we are a little bit afraid to try, and anything that gives us pleasure.
Imagine a time lapse of your life, a few minutes of seeing your entire life played before your eyes - how quickly it would all be over? Shouldn't we make the most of every moment, even the quiet ones of meditation and silence.