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February 27, 2014

Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters. ~ Barbara Becker

pothole

It is so true that real self-change can take a long time.

Lately I’m finding that solutions appear more quickly when I’m taking time to bring mindfulness into my everyday life. Sometimes that looks like me saying to myself, Am I being mindful right now? over and over throughout the day.

These practices, too, have their own challenges—like remembering to do them, for starters. But they pale in comparison to getting stuck in one of life’s big holes, many of them of my own making.

Here’s my biggest hope.

Maybe—maybe—someday I will come to embrace the holes that I’ve fallen into—with a sense of humor and kindness to myself and all fellow clumsy beings.

People in mindfulness circles love to quote Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.

It’s a little work of wisdom about the patterns we habitually bring to the challenges in our lives. (I have read that Portia Nelson was a survivor of breast cancer, which adds another interesting layer to her poem.)

My teacher at the New York Insight Meditation Center tells us that there’s at least one more chapter missing from the poem. Can you guess what it is?

My Life

Chapter One.

I walk down the street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It still takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two.

I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place! But it isn’t my fault and it still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three.

I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I still fall in. It’s a habit! My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter Four.

I walk down the same street. There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter Five.

I walk down a different street.

* Chapter Six, according to my teacher: “Walking down the new street, there’s a deep hole in this sidewalk too. I fall in.”

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Kristi Apr 17, 2014 8:42pm

Give credit where credit is due.

This was actually written by Portia Nelson in 1993. It is called Autobiography in Five Short Chapters and can be found in her book, "There's a Hole in my Sidewalk – The Romance of Self-Discovery"

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Barbara Becker

Barbara Becker is a professional human rights campaigner, a part-time professor, and a perpetual student.  You can read her blog Everyday Matters or follow her on Twitter @meditatingmom.