Stop right there!
That’s the first step for us when we want to bolt and run. If you’re anything like me, and you’re used to hitting the road when things get tough, then you know exactly what I am talking about.
Quitters never win, right?
I’ve heard that my whole life, yet somehow, up to the age of 34, I kept finding myself in a relentless pattern of quitting and running. Of course, I didn’t think I was quitting and running. In my delusion, I told myself that I was just a free spirit, and I was on another adventure. I believed it too.
And then the day came when I didn’t want to run. I didn’t want to give up. Yet everything in my mind was saying, “Go, run, be gone, we don’t need this.” But my heart wasn’t in it anymore, so I stayed. And I changed! I changed drastically. I gave up my identity as a runner and a quitter, and I started being brave and courageous. Not the false ego bravery I thought I had, but actual bravery. I started facing the things that made me want to tuck tail and run.
In the space of pausing and staying, I found the freedom I was so desperately seeking when I would flee at the slightest challenge. I began practicing yoga and mediation as it was meant to be practiced, and it started having a profound effect on me. I began to be an observer of myself and my mental chatter. I started to drive the bus of my mind rather than allowing it to careen wildly where it would at any given moment, as it had done throughout my life.
And that was true freedom. Knowing how I act, think and react to life is so profound. Understanding my own wiring and programming was mind-blowing and eye opening, as it allowed me to begin to create space for change within myself. I began to be able to choose which responses worked for me, and which ones needed to be cut away like a cancerous growths because they were doing more harm than good.
As I studied Buddhism, I would come across words of wisdom that seemed as though they were written just for me. I started to discover that I wasn’t unique, and that from the sound of it these Buddhist monks completely understood the calamity of my inner struggles in life.
They wrote about life and their inner workings with such acceptance, insight, clarity and humor that I was immediately hooked. I thought to myself, “Wow. They’re monks and they know exactly how I feel and think. There is hope for me after all.” I was elated to finally feel as though I wasn’t the only bat sh*t crazy person in the world! And thus my love affair with Buddhism was born.
This love affair turned into a marriage as the years passed, and I’ve completely adopted many Buddhist principles and practices into my daily life. I practice and study the dharma to the best of my ability. Sometimes I fall extremely short and other times I’m a Zen ninja.
The point is that I no longer take myself so seriously. I love myself, and I treat myself with loving-kindness, which means that I am able to propagate these qualities out to others. Through understanding myself, I understand you because as humans, we all share the same sh*t. It may manifest in different ways and different behaviors, but when we get below the surface we find we are one and the same. We find our bodhichitta.
Bodhichitta means awakened mind/heart. It is through opening our heart that we connect with others, and where we see that we are never alone. We are no longer afraid of our pain when we tap into this place, and through it, we can pause, connect, forgive, love, and stay right where we are instead of running away.
To this day, these quotes stop me in my tracks. Because even now I want to haul ass and go sometimes. But I don’t. And now I know that running doesn’t always mean physically leaving, as we can mentally and emotionally check out as well.
It is my hope that these wise words may resonate with that place deep inside of you as they did for me:
1. “We are warriors-in-training being taught how to sit with edginess and discomfort. We are being challenged to remain and to relax where we are.” ~ Pema Chödrön
When you fancy yourself a warrior, as I did for so long, words like this simply captivate you. The moment I read this, I was like, “Challenge accepted, Pema.” And since that day, I have practiced with discipline to pause and breathe in order to remain exactly where I am and to relax there no matter what it looks like.
2. “Each time we can sit still with the restlessness and heat of anger, we are tamed and strengthened. Each time we react to anger or suppress it, we escalate our aggression.” ~ Pema Chödrön
Again, this one spoke to my warrior soul. I wanted to be tamed and strengthened more than anything because I was so tired of being a slave to my emotional unavailability and my childish reactions to life.
3. “Yet feeling emotional upheaval is not a spiritual faux-pas; it’s the place where the warrior learns compassion. It’s where we learn to stop struggling with ourselves. It’s only when we can dwell in these places that scare us that equanimity becomes unshakeable.” ~ Pema Chödrön
Erroneously, I thought for many years that being spiritual meant you didn’t get angry or emotional. Learning how to use the upheavals as lessons was so empowering for me. It still is! And of course, this is a never-ending process. The work is never finished.
4. “Right here in what we’d like to throw away, in what we find repulsive and frightening, we discover the warmth and clarity of bodhichitta.” ~ Pema Chödrön
These words absolutely cut straight to my heart. Hearing that I could discover warmth and clarity in the aspects of myself I once wanted to throw away was akin to receiving a warm hug from your favorite person on earth. It was a breath of fresh air with the tidings of hope upon it.
5. “Meditation practice is regarded as a good, and in fact, excellent way to overcome warfare in the world: our own warfare as well as greater warfare.” ~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Our own warfare…wow. Just ponder those words for a moment and discover what they bring up in you. As someone who was in constant strife with myself, these words were the grand slam of all wisdom for me. I mean, if Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche knows about inner warfare, then there’s hope for us!
It comes down to this: We run because we are scared, because we do not want to stay and fight. We doubt ourselves. This creates an inner battle that, for me, ruled my life for years. So when I read these words, they grabbed my heart. They told me that it’s okay that I have been fighting myself; so have we, and there is a solution for you.
It is my truest hope that in sharing this wisdom, I reach you, dear reader. You, who like me, has struggled to stay. You are not alone.
There is great benefit to starting a meditation practice, as you can see. Knowing the wisdom is half the battle. Through mediation we learn to apply it.
May it be of benefit.
Author: Lindsay Carricarte
Image: Crazy Wisdom Still
Editor: Travis May