“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.
Bumper stickers seen on the car in front of me:
My first response was to laugh. My second was to smirk a little at the incongruity. And then I began to contemplate.
I remembered my “aha” moment when listening to Getting Unstuck by Pema Chodron. I realized that my rage and furor about inequality, molestation, injustice…were just that…Rage and Furor. Suddenly I recognized that I was feeding violence in the world with my thoughts and my actions. And I am really not in favor of violence.
What then is my path?
To soften my heart instead of allowing my hackles to raise. To take a deep breath and decide whether there is anything I can accomplish on the subject. To live in such a way as to not unwittingly perpetrate those things which I am against.
I must have made progress; because I am back to laughter over the concept of being confrontational about peace. Been there, done that.
The spiritual leaders and sages who have shared their thoughts through the years have been invaluable to me. When I combine my own experiences with those timeless insights their guidance has hastened me along my own path of development.
And I need to step out of my life at times. My periodic physical and spiritual retreats offer me the chance to learn more about myself and to readjust. When I am traveling solo I must constantly interact with new people and am more apt to be aware of my social weaknesses. The comfort of my own pod at home allows me to ignore some of my problematic attitudes and behaviors.
I could be self-critical about what I perceive as unacceptable on my part. I could be discouraged that I must re-learn some lessons over and over.
That’s why I’m especially grateful to Pema Chodron who reminds me to be kind to myself. To be happy that I even notice when I’m off center.