Dear Spirit to Spirit friend,
A friend shared this writing in a recent group gathering. Surrendering into what Pema Chodron is saying here can be very deeply opening. For those of you who don't know her, Pema Chodron is an American Tibetan Buddhist, ordained nun, teacher, and author.
And a very wise soul.
"When we draw a line down the center of a page, we know who we are if we’re on the right side and who we are if we’re on the left side. But we don’t know who we are when we don’t put ourselves on either side. Then we just don’t know what to do. We have no reference point, no hand to hold. At that point we can either freak out or settle in.
Contentment is a synonym for loneliness, cool loneliness, settling down with cool loneliness. We give up believing that being able to escape our loneliness is going to
bring any lasting happiness or joy or sense of well-being or courage or strength.
Usually, we have to give up this belief about a billion times, again and again making friends with our jumpiness and dread, doing the same old thing a billion times with awareness. Then without our even noticing, something begins to shift. We can just
be lonely with no alternatives, content to be right here with the mood and texture of
We are fundamentally alone, and there is nothing anywhere to hold on to. Moreover, this
is not a problem. In fact, it allows us to finally discover a completely unfabricated state
of being. Our habitual assumptions — all our ideas about how things are — keep us from seeing anything in a fresh, open way.
We don’t ultimately know anything. There’s no certainty about anything. This basic truth hurts, and we want to run away from it. But coming back and relaxing with something as familiar as loneliness is good discipline for realizing the profundity of the unresolved moments of our lives. We are cheating ourselves when we run away from the ambiguity of loneliness.
So faced, loneliness becomes a kind of mirror — one into which we must look with maximum compassion, one that beams back to us our greatest strength.
Cool loneliness allows us to look honestly and without aggression at our own minds. We can gradually drop our ideals of who we think we ought to be, or who we think we want to be, or who we think other people think we want to be or ought to be. We give it up and just look directly with compassion and humor at who we are.
Then loneliness is no threat and heartache, no punishment. Cool loneliness doesn’t provide any resolution or give us ground under our feet. It challenges us to step into a world of no reference point without polarizing or solidifying. This is called the middle way, or the sacred path of the warrior.”
In Gratitude & Love, Joanna