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Samsara & Selfhood: Staying with Uncertainty
Submitted by Angela Carter on Fri, 12/16/2011, 5:28pm
I’ve started a new practice. Each day I randomly open Pema Chödrön’s book Comfortable With Uncertainty and read the teaching I’ve landed upon. The book is a compilation of 108 short teachings – little reminders – I’m using as bits of wisdom to start my day.
Its uncanny how I always seem to open the book up to the teaching I didn’t know I most desperately needed to remember. Its another small way I’m finding to keep myself grounded. Given my last almost painful post on how the holiday season feels like (my internal) Mara attacking me, and Nancy’s insightful post offering the completely opposite approach to being with the season, I think it’s clear that I am (stuck) in a place. Today, I randomly flipped up to this teaching:
The Wisdom of No Escape – Page 7
The central question of a warrior’s training is not how we avoid uncertainty and fear but how we relate to discomfort. How do we practice with difficulty, with our emotions, with the unpredictable encounters of an ordinary day? For those of us with a hunger to know the truth, painful emotions are like flags going up to say, “You’re stuck!” We regard disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, jealousy, and fear as moments that show us where we’re holding back, how we’re shutting down. Such uncomfortable feelings are messages that tell us to perk up and lean into a situation when we’d rather cave in and back away.
When the flag goes up, we have an opportunity: we can stay with our painful emotion instead of spinning out. Staying is how we get the hang of gently catching ourselves when we’re about to let resentment harden into blame, righteousness or alienation. It’s also how we keep from smoothing things over by talking ourselves into a sense of relief or inspiration. This is easier said than done.
Ordinarily we are swept away by habitual momentum. We don’t interrupt our patterns even slightly. With practice, however, we learn to stay with a broken heart, with a nameless fear, with the desire for revenge. Sticking with uncertainty is how we learn to relax in the midst of chaos, how we learn to be cool when the ground beneath us suddenly disappears. We can bring ourselves back to the spiritual path countless times every day by exercising our willingness to rest in the uncertainty of the present moment – over and over again.
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