It's been a hard two days. full of anxiety, tears and despair.
Last night in a song I heard this line "Be yourself" and there was a blank. I don't feel like myself any longer, I don't know this frightened woman I have become.
If anybody would have told me not too long ago that one day I will be faced with this enormous challenge to my health and spirit, I would have felt positive that I could handle it. Let it come, I would have said, look at me, I can do this - theoretically. And how I looked down on people who let themselves go - the way I do now.
Only, I am not sure if I let myself go. Rather, I seem to be struggling most of the time to stop myself falling to pieces. It's a fierce battle.
This afternoon, R and I did a short bit of Qi Gong with the lovely tape I got years ago. It was a nice piece about the ever changing universe, about yin and yang and two sides of everything together with gentle playful movements of the hands.
And next I read this by Pema Chodron:
A few years ago, I was overwhelmed by deep anxiety, a fundamental, intense anxiety [...]. I felt very vulnerable, very afraid and raw. While I sat and breathed with it, relaxed into it, stayed with it, the terror did not abate. It was unrelenting [...], and I didn't know what to do.
I went to see my teacher Dzigar Kongtrül, and he said, "Oh, I know that place." That was reassuring. He told me about times in his life when he had been caught in the same way. He said it had been an important part of his journey and had been a great teacher for him. Then he did something that shifted how I practice. He asked me to describe what I was experiencing. He asked me where I felt it. He asked me if it hurt physically and if it was hot or cold. He asked me to describe the quality of the sensation, as precisely as I could. This detailed exploration continued for a while, and then he brightened up and said "Ani Pema, that's the Dakini's Bliss. That's a high-level of spiritual bliss." I almost fell out of my chair. I thought, "Wow, this is great!" And I couldn't wait to feel that intensity again. And do you know what happened? When I eagerly sat down to practice, of course, since the resistance was gone, so was the anxiety.
I now know that at a nonverbal level the aversion to my experience had been very strong. I had been making the sensation bad. Basically, I just wanted it to go away. But when my teacher said "Dakini's bliss," it completely changed the way I looked at it. So that's what I learned: take an interest in your pain and your fear. Move closer, lean in, get curious; even for a moment, experience the feelings without labels, beyond being good or bad. Welcome them. Invite them. Do anything that helps melt the resistance.
Then the next time you lose heart and you can't bear to experience what you are feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in. That's basically the instruction that Dzigar Kongtrül gave me. And now I pass it on to you. Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves. This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering - yours, mine, and that of all living beings.