When Pema Chodron talks about shenpa, she refers to living intimately with others.
Her teachings have made me aware that my irritations are my own issues. My knowledge of this human response keeps me aware of the lessons I would like to learn instead of thinking that I must teach someone else.
“Aha!” she says as she lives with four other women for a month.
This pleasure trip could have become a nightmare if I had mindlessly and habitually closed my heart and opened my mouth. Instead, it has been a wonderful practice. My moments of irritation, self-righteousness, and assumed martyrdom were contained within my thoughts long enough to sift a bit of ego from the mix before pouring out respect and consideration when I finally spoke.
I feel encouraged. Not because I did it perfectly (Not!), but because I was aware of the pitfalls much of the time. I was happy to have remembered Pema’s words when I began to shrink into the seclusion of resentment. It helped me to make my times of isolation short and the joys of sharing more bountiful.
Once again, thank you, Pema.
“Since death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?” Pema Chodron
I am always out of control. Yet I cling to the illusion of a life that I can delineate. I set intentions. I make plans. And then life happens.
My younger daughter was seriously ill in the hospital after a few critical days of pneumonia and septic shock. She’s better now, and I can breathe.
And I have a reminder that I do not maintain order in my life although I am the beneficiary of it at times. I can plan, I can organize, I can get involved in daily routines that feel vitally important. I can consider myself indispensable and worry about everything from keeping appointments to putting healthy meals on the table.
Poof…it all disappears as I sit for hours in a hospital chair, mindless of what was compelling a few hours ago.
I no longer care if the leftover chicken rots and the clothes heap up in the laundry room. I skip my morning routines to make sure my daughter has a healthy smoothie when she wakes in the morning. My hair begins to stand on end and I look down to discover a spot on my jacket that a week before would have embarrassed me. Now I idly examine it, wondering what and when without much interest. Mirrors are not a reality for the moment.
It is another reminder to seek what is important in my life. Another reason to drop form and look for substance. A recognition that uncertainty is a way to practice acceptance. And that acceptance is letting go of control.
“It is never too late, it is never too early; it is always just now” Pema Chodron
This is the constant in the teachings, isn’t it? Let go of the past, don’t fast-forward, be present with what is happening. In Pema Chodron’s Lojong teaching on awakening compassion she says it again. It isn’t one of the slogans. It is not even a major point in this particular teaching.
And still, for me it is the basis of everything I try to remember each day.
Live in the moment. Breathe deeply and don’t try to escape the unpleasant. Breathe deeply, enjoy the moments of pleasure and be willing to let them pass, too.
While I listen I cling to the beauty of the fall trees. I step in the dry rustle on sun-dappled strees and remember the smell of smoke in the air when I was young; not yearning exactly, but remembering with a certain nostalgia.
I am slow at learning on this lifelong path.