“The essence of generosity is letting go. Pain is always a sign that we are holding on to something–usually ourselves. When we feel unhappy, when we feel inadequate, we get stingy; we hold on tight. Generosity is an activity that loosens us up. By offering whatever we can–a dollar, a flower, a word of encouragement–we are training in letting go.” Pema Chodron
It would be an understatement to say that there is a lot going on right now. All we need to do is turn on the news, scroll down our Facebook feeds for 30 seconds, or simply feel into the collective energy field and there is no shortage of disturbing, heart-wrenching and divisive things going on in our world.
The inner matrix of my personal life has been quite challenging as of late with a lot of major transition afoot. I’ve been feeling unproductive, low energy and an overall malaise–all qualities that are hard for me to accept, let alone embrace. As these unwanted flavors pervade my days and nights, it’s had me intently observing the habits of my own mind and also sitting with some big questions about our human condition.
I’m reminded again and again that although self-care hacks are hugely valuable, no matter how much exercise, meditation, sunshine, human connection, green leafy vegetables or anything else, things are still just going to feel confusing, foggy, unwanted and downright depressing sometimes.
As we do the natural and hard work of waking up, there are many points along the journey that simply will not feel good.
This is not necessarily the fun part where you feel the magnificence of your inner light shining and all things seem to be magically aligning in your favor. Certainly, there are times and stages of life where this can happen, but today I’m sharing some reflections on the grittier times. The moments or phases where night time starts to feel scary, the world is just a little too much and you want to pull the blankets up over your head and never come out.
It seems the more awake I grow, the more raw and tender this human journey becomes. My awareness is increasingly heightened around the impermanence of life and the absolute necessity and utter challenge of letting go between one stage to the next.
I’m recognizing that the moments just before I let go are the hardest. This is where my body, mind, heart and soul do the proverbial squirm, grip and clamp down. Everything in me is resisting the change and holding on for dear life in the hopes that somehow I won’t have to undergo the inevitable metamorphosis that is perpetually built into the cycles of human life.
This past week I was reminded of an important teaching from my years as a student of Buddhist psychology on a concept called the Genuine Heart of Sadness.
The Genuine Heart of Sadness is something that we all possess as humans, but that truly starts to strengthen and develop when we become more present and wakeful in our lives. The more we allow ourselves to admit to the impermanence of the people, stages and things in our lives, the more tenderized our hearts become. The more we recognize that those qualities in others that rub and irk us are things that we, too, possess in ourselves, and emerge out of wounding and pain, the more raw the heart grows. The more we let go of the rigid boxes in which we have placed both ourselves and others, the more vulnerable and precious this life starts to feel because we can no longer insulate ourselves as much from the darkness that we were hoping only lived “out there,” but in fact is equally at play “in here.”
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche reminds us that the Genuine Heart of Sadness comes from “letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart.” It comes from being “willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world…to share your heart with others.”
As I’ve taken this Genuine Heart of Sadness into my awareness this past week or so, one place of solace I’m finding is when I can enter a state of presence, flow and generosity either with myself or another.
I had several experiences: on the phone with my mother, allowing tears to fall, walking by the lake with a friend’s hand on my hip, sitting with my eyes closed on the couch as my own silent witness…in each of these moments it’s not that the malaise disappeared and I was magically happy again, rather that something else had the opportunity to emerge alongside of it.
What blossomed was not a flashy, well-packaged dose of enlightenment, but instead this genuine heart of sadness and a willingness to be with what is, even if it doesn’t feel good. In these moments, my thrashing and resistance finally had the space to soften and breath could come in.
Whether ensconced in solitude or sharing an experience of authentic presence with another, these opportunities of flow aid the process of letting go because they melt the edges of resistance and deep gripping that are working so hard to stop the process of change that has the power to genuinely terrify us as humans.
The final reflection that I want to leave you with today is this:
I promise that on the path of awakening, you will have days and moments where you will want to give up…you will want to go back to sleep both literally and figuratively (as I have wanted to in the past couple of weeks). And yet, if you continue to ride the eternal waves of this wild human experience, you will turn corners, you will grow and you will evolve.
Whether it’s the courageous choice to engage in a painful conversation with a loved one, to face your greatest existential fears, to allow worldly realities to permeate the boundaries of your heart or to sit and feel the emptiness of it all, and everything in between, these are the winding pathways of this mysterious territory called waking up.
These crossroads and passageways of darkness are the very mechanism that allow us to consistently become and give birth to ourselves as tender, whole, imperfect, impermanent beings over and over and over again.
Blessings on your journey dear soul, and remember, be gentle with yourself.