Broken on the Mountainside. ~ Kate Bartolotta

Via on Sep 26, 2011

Nailed to the present moment.

It’s so easy to be present, isn’t it? Sitting on the beach, making love, laughing with friends–of course it’s easy. I could stay present in those snuggling a puppy, hugging my kids, chocolate chip cookie, first kiss, blue-sky moments eternally. Who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t give anything to stay in the present?

But what about when it’s hard? Are you able to sit with the present moment when it hurts like hell, and you don’t know how long that moment will last?

Nothing is what we thought. I can say that with great confidence. Emptinessis not what we thought. Neither is mindfulness or fear. Compassion—not what we thought. Love, buddha nature, courage—these are code words for things we don’t know in our minds, but any of us could experience them. These are words that point to what life really is when we let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present moment.  ~ Pema Chödrön Things Fall Apart

A few years ago, I broke my leg halfway through a hike in Colorado Springs. Ironically, it was one of the tamest hikes I’ve ever done. I was with a group of newish friends, a bunch of young moms eager to get out of the house and have some conversation about something other than cloth diapers and extended breastfeeding. We were about halfway to the summit when I hit on a little patch of loose gravel. I tried to right myself. My foot planted in one spot and the rest of me went the other way.

Isn’t that always the way, though? So many times it’s not the big things you are worried about that derail you. It’s the unexpected blindsiding that really guts us and leaves us at the side of the path, broken.

It was like when time slows down in a car crash. I saw myself, falling. I heard the snap and crack in my leg. I felt lightening hot pain in my leg. I smelled the hot piney air and the dirt as my head hit the ground. I lost my breath for what seemed like an hour. Then I screamed. I felt the urge to vomit, but took a few breaths and tried to get it together. My instinct was to move away from it. Go somewhere else in my mind. Go to my happy place. But for some reason—I didn’t.

I should also mention that I was carrying my 15-month-old daughter in my arms when I fell. She had been fussing in her sling, so I took her out and held her, moments before the accident. Had she been in the sling, she might have been badly hurt when I hit the ground, rather than just getting a scrape on her chin. My fear for her safety ––physically and emotionally––just added to the pain of that moment.

So, I took a breath. Stood up. And I started back down the mountain and for the first time in my life I stayed present with the pain. My fellow hikers helped me back down, and I stayed with my pain for all of it. Later, at the hospital, the nurse offered me painkillers before the doctor set my leg. (Things had shifted around pretty badly from my trying to walk on it). But I decided that wasn’t for me. I don’t remember having a “why” in mind, just that I didn’t want to try and escape it.

I would rather feel pain, than feel nothing.

I would rather be engulfed in the fear of how bad it was going to hurt and do it anyway than not be present.

It’s human nature–maybe the nature of all living things–to avoid pain. It is a survival instinct. We move away from it. We run away. We push all sorts of stuff on top of it so we don’t have to feel it. We bury it under work. Or sarcasm. Or alcohol. Or food. Or sex. Or whatever escape allows us to pretend it isn’t there.

But, being present in the painful moment is not only possible, it’s necessary. Being present when the present is painful is rich, raw, deep, dark, fragile, ragged, visceral, and (most of all) necessary.

It isn’t the blissful beautiful moments that teach us the most. It’s the ones where we realize we are never not broken. It’s the ones where we are stuck in the middle of our path, broken on the mountainside, and let it all go.

Recently, I was derailed by some emotional gravel in my path, ended up feeling broken and not sure which way I was headed. It reminded me of that day. When we are broken, when we find ourselves in the places we fear—it isn’t time to turn away; it is time to press forward. It is that act of being “nailed to the present moment” that unites us and widens our circle of compassion. We all find pleasure in different things, but pain—pain is universal. When we stay present in our painful moments, we are able to have true compassion for the pain of others rather than just an abstract wishing others well.

 

If we begin to get in touch with whatever we feel with some kind of kindness, our protective shells will melt, and we’ll find that more areas of our lives are workable. As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others ­­— what and whom we can work with, and how—becomes wider. ~ Pema Chödrön Things Fall Apart

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. She doesn't know how to behave with all the apples and ibexes. She doesn't suffer from her eight million freckles, she loves them! Like a rolling stone, Kate gathers no moss. Kate loves kale, being barefoot, Dr. Seuss, singing too loudly, gallivanting, palindromes, blackberries and has far too many books for her own good. When she's not writing, you can find her practicing yoga, running in the woods, playing with her kids, devouring a book, planting dandelions, changing the world and doing her dishes. Kate does not play the accordion. She is a massage therapist, writer and a compassionate friend to all. This year Kate aspires to finally give up on learning to knit and will instead spend that time putting a little bit more of her heart on the page. Connect with Kate on Facebook and Twitter

1,962 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use PayPal but you don't need an account with PayPal.)

Elephriends - Mindful Affiliates

9 Responses to “Broken on the Mountainside. ~ Kate Bartolotta”

  1. yogiclarebear says:

    Thank you for this Kate. This is exactly what I'm working on in life right now. Doing some really hard things, making tough changes and choices…and knowing it might be uncomfortable, painful even…but allowing that. You have shared a really intense example, wow. That gives me can-do courage!

    Posted to Elephant Journal Facebook.

  2. Thanks Claire! Going through some hard things too…that's what prompted me to write it;) I always tell myself, "you got down a mountain with a broken leg — you can get through this!"

  3. Andréa Balt says:

    Great Kate. I am keeping the thought that pain is universal. So is love. No matter what we're goint through, we all love and feel pain and that's all that Compassion needs to know.

    Glad your daughter didn't get hurt. Sending you virtual strength & courage.

  4. KatieC says:

    You are one bad ass lady, Kate! Thank you for another wonderful article!

  5. katie says:

    nailed me in the moment. thank you xo

  6. [...] doesn’t come in a pretty little box. It’s making peace with and acknowledging the parts that are messy that teaches us the most. It’s looking at what is, with curiosity, instead of needing to [...]

Leave a Reply