“The armor we erect around our soft hearts causes a lot of misery.
But don’t be deceived, it’s very transparent. The more vivid it gets, the more clearly you see it, the more you realize that this shield—this cocoon—is just made up of thoughts that we churn out and regard as solid. The shield is not made out of iron. The armor is not made out of metal. In fact, it’s made out of passing memory.”
(Start Where You Are: “Pulling Out the Rug.”)
So in the last chapter, we talked about letting go of the big deals we make about everything. Regard all dharmas as dreams, don’t take ourselves so seriously. And now, in case you didn’t get it, we’re going to talk about it some more. I know I didn’t get it. In fact, in this chapter, Pema reminds us that every time we think we’ve “got it,” we definitely don’t:
“The absolute quality of bodhichitta can never be pinned down. If you can talk about it, that’s not it. So if you think that awakened heart is something, it isn’t. It’s passing memory. And if you think this big burden of ego, this bog monster cocoon is something, it isn’t. It’s just passing memory. Yet it’s so vivid. The more you practice, the more vivid it gets. It’s a paradox—it can’t be found, and yet it couldn’t be more vivid.”
I feel like we have a choice here. We can feel frustrated by this idea, or liberated by it. Personally, I find it liberating. I am never going to have this all figured out. I am never going to get “there” because “there” isn’t real. Let’s be here, be in the shaky, insecure groundlessness honestly and completely. It’s a good place to be. It’s the only real place to be. The point of meditation and spirituality isn’t to turn life into a happy sunflower covered Pinterest board. The point is to be with whatever is going on, whether it’s sunflowers or poison ivy, and be fully present without trying to suppress it or cling to it.
I consider myself a positive person. I try to appreciate the good in others, in what life brings my way. But more important than being positive, is being genuine. It’s much more enriching to realize that things are temporary than to say “it’s all good.” Sometimes it isn’t all good! And even when it’s fan-freaking-tastic, it’s temporary. It’s all fleeting, which is a comfort when it hurts and a reminder to enjoy when it’s great.
“This approach is very different from practicing affirmations, which has become a popular thing to do in some circles. Affirmations are like screaming that you’re okay in order to overcome the whisper that you’re not. That’s a big contrast to actually uncovering the whisper, realizing that it’s all passing memory, and moving closer to all those fears and all those edgy feelings that maybe you’re not okay. Well, no big deal. None of us is okay, and all of us are fine.”
Pull out that rug.
Lighten up, sweetheart, it’s no big deal.
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