Write what you are desperate to understand.”
I wanted to write about personal responsibility and equanimity. Those two themes caught my attention this month. I have a hard time maintaining equanimity around those who reject personal responsibility. Yet, I was reading how personal responsibility, along with seeking the counsel of teachers is the practice of the guardians of the perceived world. And I read how equanimity is one of the “Ways to Cross Life’s Floods”.
I felt flooded by heat most of August- both in temperature and temperament. Family disharmony. National, regional, local crises. Difficult situation at work. Getting the house painted. All the peace and ease of doing less and focusing more flung into frustration, exhaustion and insomnia. I stressed about the hot August weather, the mostly bad news I read of in the paper, the actions (rather lack thereof) of others at the workplace. Unwanted feelings, physical crashes and mental surges. I imagined myself on a teeter totter, jarred as I topped and bottomed out.
Except Sunday morning, heading up into the foothills. Week after week, the quiet and simplicity of walking, sweating, focusing on where we are and nothing else. The cool and calm return. Looking out over some gorgeous panoramic vista, I no longer know who else is to blame or what I was so upset about or what else should be different.
I want to spend my life in that experience of evenness. How to do it? How to not get catapulted into emotional extremes without going to the extremes of hiking 4-5 hours?
Sitting down to my desk, searching for how to begin, I notice all the notes I’ve written on a scraps of paper as I have been reading and listening, seeking the counsel of teachers. I wondered if personal responsibility and equanimity aren’t composed of these notes. Although most of them are on themes of patience and acceptance. I wondered if I already have the teaching. What if practice what I already have?
These first two are both better known, frequently referenced quotes have been stuck to the wall alongside my desk for many years. My eyes will glaze over them, not seeing, but then once in a while stop and slowly read, absorbing and feeling into the ease they bring to my mind:
We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” – Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
Do you think peace requires an end to war?
Then there are the Post-It notes on my computer screen. These seem to hang around for a year or so, maybe longer or less. They remind me of the direction I wish to go, pointing the way:
Finally, here are the handwritten scraps of notes, the month of daily listening, learning, practicing and writing. They float around on the desk, on the workbench, in my pocket. I want to not just understand them, but to live them without grasping.
Patience, khanthi, is a letting go of time. (‘A samana is one who has no future’)
When I try to separate the wisdom from personal responsibility and patience from equanimity, I just can’t figure out how there could be one without the other. They are parts of a whole, a balance, completeness. I understand that emotional freedom is possible, no matter the circumstances, provided I continuously practice what is useful. When I am here and now, in this moment, with just this as it is, I experience the balance of being whole and complete, a sum total of my parts, and a part of the sum total.
Why write all of this to you, Aspiration Community Yoga friends? I long ago gave up the notion that my experience is unique. We share our stories with each other, never knowing when, where or how someone else’s experience is going to be a great amount of help.
I first came to know most of you through our shared desires to care for our bodies. How we respect our bodies is intertwined with how we regard our emotions and thoughts. "It's hard to feel good when you don't feel good" my friend Dave Lozier would say.
When you ever feel something else or someone else is the source of your teeter-totter ride, when you feel a dislike of anything that causes delay, have an intense want for change or expectation that is not happening soon enough, perhaps one of these poems and micro-teachings might be of use to you, as they are to me. Any that are not, please set them aside.