It’s not life that causes suffering, it’s our story about life, our interpretation, that causes so much distress. Pema Chödrön
When my Dad died, I was sad, depressed and debilitated. As fate would have it, I ran into Pema Chödrön by way of her audio tape: The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. It was heaven-sent, a clear prescription of how to ride the wave of my emotions and move forward out of my loss.
Our sense of who we are is a very restricted version of who we truly are. Chödrön’s prescription is to use direct experience, who we present at this very moment, as the doorway to our true nature. By fully being in this moment of time, sounds, smells, sights, feelings, we contact the unlimited openness of being.
All of our habitual patterns are efforts to maintain a predictable, limited identity. When we keep revisiting the memory of something distressing, or rehashing and obsessing the story line, or seeing ourselves as victim; emotions fuel our static identity.
In fact, our identity which seems substantial and static, is in fact very fluid and dynamic. There are unlimited possibilities to what we might think, what we might feel, and how we might experience our reality. We must take actions to free ourselves from the suffering of this fixed identity and instead choose to connect with the fundamental change and mystery of our being.
The first step is learning to stay in the present with a meditation practice. In the present, we see how persistently we felt sorry for ourselves and do not consider alternative possibilities of long term happiness.
The next step is to interrupt the negative thoughts without denying or repressing them and accept the nature of the mind to let thoughts arise and leave. If we neither suppress our thoughts and emotions nor run with them, we find ourselves in an interesting place of neither rejection or justification but instead, embracing what is. There’s no need to respond habitually. No need to fight or flee. We can feel your true hearts and engage without an agenda.
We are in dynamic situations with unimaginable potential. The more we stay present, the more familiar this process becomes, and the easier it is to do it in the midst of everyday challenges. We will continue to face uncertainty and change. It is inherent in being alive. We are neither doomed nor completely free. We create our future with every word, action, and thought. We have all that we need to simply relax and be with the transitional, in-process quality of life. It is our engagement in the process of awakening.