Thursday Tidbits: The Way to Fall Apart

This week’s Thursday Tidbits post considers retreat as a meditative withdrawal and as the idea of falling apart. As Pema Chödrön says, “Everything that comes together at some time falls apart.” Ours is to experience pain and pleasure–usually alternating but not always–for the nature of existence is impermanence.

Recently, I attended an online retreat offered by the Omega Institute, featuring Pema Chödrön. The retreat covered the four marks of existence–impermanence, egolessness, suffering, and peace–during the first minutes of the retreat, Chodron referred to the four as the facts of life. I felt a familiar stirring.


I had been drawn to the retreat from the moment the invitation arrived in my email box, about 72 hours prior to the event’s first session. I was not aware of having any connection to the Omega Institute, which is not to say I did not but is to say I do not remember a connection. Still don’t.

Serendipitous email or no, the retreat affirmed my suspicion that I was, indeed, falling apart again–health, writing, life–but the initial session on impermanence revealed how adept I had become at avoiding falling apart. That was an unexpected moment yet it was obvious I had been creating various bubbles of escape for some time. No wonder they felt so familiar, so comfortable.

You might think all my posts about allowing bubbles to float up and through us while remaining in present moment awareness might have had some effect on me other than escaping with the bubbles. They did, ultimately.

A few months ago when I started reading Pema Chödrön’s books, I chose The Places That Scare You over When Things Fall Apart. I felt a familiar stirring of avoidance when I made my selection but convinced myself I needed to read the former title–for what reason now escapes me.

Not surprisingly, the phrase that I kept hearing in the online retreat was “when things fall apart,” more by participants than by Pema Chödrön. That was not surprising, either.

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. And they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy” (When Things Fall Apart).

The words falling apart have always been difficult for me. I eschew vulnerability in the same breath that I advocate an open mind and open heart; however, I do know “strength does not come from a bubble of safety” (Chödrön).

Waverly gazebo 0513

My bubble burst within the first few minutes of listening to Pema Chödrön, and my tears streamed right along with the video; Chödrön is quite a wit so my tears were from laughter as well as from the pain of recognition. It was a great way to fall apart, actually.

Nothing has changed and everything has changed. I am still dealing with a significant lupus flare and adjusting my life accordingly; as always, diet, meditation, and yoga figure prominently. For me, it is not a matter of being less but a matter of being more, just as I am, which is new.

If I avoid the discomfort that is part of being alive, I am living in a bubble. Bubbles burst; it is their nature. If I open to both the pleasure and the pain of life, I am vulnerable but strength resides in accepting that things fall apart and come together. It is the nature of existence.


Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

22 thoughts on “Thursday Tidbits: The Way to Fall Apart

    1. Just this morning, I was wondering how you were. I hope you are feeling better. Thank you for all the support you provide to this blog and to me. Both are much appreciated.


    1. Hi, Laura!
      As long we’re here, we don’t seem to be able to escape, no matter how we cloak it. You are so correct in that! So glad you enjoy the pictures as I enjoy taking them. Sometimes, I get lucky! Thanks for stopping by, Laura.


  1. I didn’t know Omega now offers online retreats!
    Your post made me recall the oft-quoted lines by Yeats:

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned…


    1. The more I think about it, I am convinced synchronicity was at work with my discovering this retreat, as I did not know nor do I yet know how I got on their email list but am glad I am. Thank you for the lines from Yeats as I was certain “things fall apart” had a 19th century ring to it. I had it with “the centre cannot hold” but not the source. These days, I can bring up lines but the source is another matter. Oh, the retreat is still available for viewing, Ann. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comment.


  2. Bubbles…what happens to them when they burst? We are left with something just in a different form…I really liked your words. Thanks for sharing!


    1. Actually, if you visit the Omega Institute site, I think you can view the video from the retreat–for a fee, of course. It really was a fine retreat.

      Thanks for stopping by!



  3. The serendipity of that course arriving when it did is simply wonderful. It happens, and the question that poses is intriguing; philosophically, the right things often come to us, unlooked, at the right time – and suprisingly often. Jung had the word for it, synchronicity. Yet is it our minds seeing patterns in randomness, as science would insist – or something else? I don’t know.

    A great post – and I hope things settle for you. I’m sure they will. Your words have a calmness about them, and things DO come together, usually by our design and effort, but also often because, sometimes, they just do. All best wishes from this side of the world!


    1. I appreciate your thoughtful words, Matthew, as always. I almost used the word synchronicity rather than serendipity. Hm…. Like you, I have no idea whether it is our seeing the patterns or something else but either way, the more aware we are, the more we see. You know how I am about stating the obvious….

      Things are beginning to settle, and whether it is Buddhism, synchronicity, or just resting more and doing less, I always learn something from these flare-ups. I want to think that I am more accepting of impermanence, and maybe I really am!

      Thanks for being such a faithful reader of this blog, Matthew. It means a great deal to me. I am looking forward to your latest posts.



  4. Karen,
    Great post. Would love to hear more about he online retreat. Do you think we can skype? I just started reading “Start where you are” last week. Isn’t it funny how we are attracted to certain titles/authors at key moments in our lives. Thanks for guiding me to Pema Chodron.
    I love the idea of bursting the bubbles to be authentic and vulnerable. I would add that when we burst the bubbles we don’t have to fear someone/something else bursting our bubble. We don’t have to fear reality, because we are reality.
    {{{hugs}}} Kozo


    1. Hi, Kozo!
      Such wise words about bubbles but then I have come to know such wisdom from you. I so appreciate the support you give me and my blog. I apologize for being tardy with this response. Also, I have not been able to read any of your latest posts but you know I will. I look forward to them.

      Let me know how you find that particular Pema Chodron work for she really does have a way with Buddhism that I believe is quite refreshing. I have not read that one. After attending the retreat I was tempted to apply for residency at Gampo Abbey!

      I would love to visit with you about the retreat. Right now, I am still in full recovery mode so it will be a while but let’s not let the opportunity to get away from us. Thanks, my friend.



      1. Karen,
        Sending you {{hugs}}} during your full recovery mode.
        I look forward to “talking” to you about the retreat anytime in the future. I can let you know what I am learning from my reading as well.
        {{{hugs]}} Kozo


  5. Another wonderful post, Karen and what a joy that must have been to experience the teachings with Pema first hand; I’m thrilled for you. I’m right there with you in the avoidance category as I also find it very difficult to add they say, fall apart. However, times (very few) when I have allowed my own bubble to burst have ended up being amazing moments of new perspective and growth. It’s all partof the process I guess and unfortunately, we have to accept that we have to leave the bubble, if only for a little bit.


    1. Thanks so much, Stephanie! Sorry I have not been on social media; thank you for all of your support. It means a lot. I’d like to think that I will not ride any more escape bubbles but I know better. Attending the online retreat was a thrill, and I really do think it is helping me through this flare. Thanks, my friend. Looking forward to new posts from you.



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