January 10, 2021

Things Fall Apart

Last night was a boxing match I was destined to lose. I got knocked out in two rounds, my arms flailing in a fencing response, attempting to grasp at something solid as I fell. In the space of one hour, two pieces of news came in which flattened me.

The experience reminded me of Pema Chödrön’s book Things Fall Apart, which I’ve been leafing through today. In it, she discusses her own approaches, through the lens of Buddhism, to personal disaster, and how to maintain one’s selfhood throughout.

When things fall apart and we’re on the verge of we know not what, the test of each of us is to stay on that brink and not concretize. The spiritual journey is not about heaven and finally getting to a place that’s really swell.

Being swell sounds awfully tempting right now.

When courted by sudden change, especially mental ones, I’ve always erred between doing and being. This morning I hit a personal best in my run. I think that was out of anger with the world, my feet needing to pound the ground into submission. This afternoon I’ve been trying to maintain a sense of being, allowing the thoughts to drift over me as they come, wave after wave hitting the rocks of my aggrieved mind.

Ultimately, intellectually, I know how precious life is, and how kindness really is the only way forward. In the moment, it’s going to take all my experience and mental fortitude to practice what I know my loving brain is attempting to preach.

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