|Guan-Yin, The Bodhisattva of Compassion.|
I had the most vivid dream. I was doubled over, cramping in agony, puking my guts out. The kind of puking where you seriously don’t think you can take it anymore, you want to die, kiss the cool porcelain, cut out your stomach, anything to end your pain. Except it wasn’t food I was throwing up. It was emotional garbage, which oddly enough looked like bits of cardboard, paper, actual objects. Shit I’ve been holding onto for way too long.
I heaved and cramped and heaved again until there was absolutely nothing left. My two friends, Melissa and Jacque, sat hunched over me, rubbing my back, whispering consoling words. Melissa whispered, “Don’t worry honey, when this is over, you can go absolutely anywhere you want to go.”
I awoke in tears, feeling light. Like a feather. Like the weight of the world was off my shoulders. Like I had just puked up 25 pounds of who knows what. And that felt just fine.
Four months ago I dove headlong into some pretty strong meditation practice and Buddhist study. I was so tired of feeling tired, and in pain, and while I never feel hopeless exactly, I am on just this side of apathetic. And all I can say is, thank god for Pema Chödrön. If she’s taught me one thing, it’s that groundlessness, those moments when the rug is pulled out, when you feel like you’ve got nothing to hold onto, are okay. They are the moments when you become stronger. They are the moments when you train as a warrior bodhisattva.
And god, if it’s one thing I absolutely abhor, it’s feeling groundless. Feeling like nothing in your life is solid, there’s nothing you can count on, and you’ve got no creature comforts to grab onto. You are completely out of your depth, drowning, overwhelmed, with nowhere to go and no one to talk to who understands, and no solutions presenting themselves. These are the moments when I hide. In my house, in bed, in movies, in video games, in food and drink and daydreams.
I hide so I don’t have to face the things I fear. Like new opportunities. Family drama. Meeting new people. Public speaking. Being recognized somewhere and being asked to do something I don’t want to do, or am not willing to do, or am scared to do but can’t say no. You name it, I’m probably scared of it.
I hate change. Except change is the only constant. What then?
So I’m learning. Slowly. When you’re presented with moments where you feel uncomfortable, or angry, or scared, or sick to your stomach, if you can do the following four things – EVEN FOR JUST ONE SECOND – before you relapse and go running for the chips, you are training as a warrior bodhisattva. You are successful.
1. Don’t lash out
2. Don’t run away
3. Don’t blame yourself
4. Don’t blame someone else
As Pema says, life every day presents us with opportunities to practice training during difficult moments. Traffic. Long lines. Bitchy co-workers. Family drama. Then there are times when huge crises present themselves and you get BIG opportunities. Like what I seem to be experiencing these days. It’s scary and I hate it. But I’m also learning not to beat myself up about it, and not to run away. Because running TOWARD is so much healthier. Even if you can only do it for one millisecond.
I had an experience last night I can only classify as huge. I was sent an ugly email. Emotionally ugly. Full of anger, pain, resentment, accusations. This person is really suffering. A type of email I had received from this same person before and lashed out against. Which of course didn’t help. And once again my chest felt tight, my stomach began to ache. I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide under the covers. This person was so angry at me. Nothing I could write or say would diminish this anger. It was there, right there in my face. I wanted to run.
Instead I tried what Pema suggested, even though I had tried it many times before and it had never worked. I sat in meditation with this ugly feeling. And I REALLY felt it. All up and down and around. Underneath and up top. Every angle of ugly. I breathed it in. Then I breathed out purity. And contentedness, and peace, and healing, and joy. I directed it toward this person, my family, and to anyone else who had ever received an ugly email. Breathed in ugliness. Breathed out joy.
For several minutes I did this. And for the first time, I felt something. A softening. The hard edges of this feeling began to soften and the feeling itself began to slowly dissolve. After several more minutes all I was left with was joy. I felt my face dissolve into a gentle smile (I was reminded of Sheldon Cooper’s “Koala Face” 😀 and tears formed at the corners of my eyes. It was so lovely.
I can’t explain in words what I felt. It resembled how proud you feel when you accomplish something, the minute you accomplish it. But it also felt like the warm sun on a spring day. Gentle and hugging and light. The feeling surrounded me and when meditation was over I floated off the cushion.
And sent waves and waves of gratitude to Pema Chödrön. Because for the first time I understand – TRULY – what she is talking about. For the first time I know working with anger and fear is possible. Having the rug pulled out from under you, feeling groundless, is okay. It can even be a good thing.