Life Churns for Everyone so Why Swirl With the I?

As Pema Chodron says, “there is no way to make a dreadful situation pretty.” Often, I find myself searching for language that removes the dualistic labels of good or bad, happy or sad. For me, writing makes this somewhat easier for it affords a pause, whereas in conversation, I tend to forget the gap between thoughts and even my breathing is shallow.

These past few weeks have been full of opportunities for me to “make a big deal” out of situations or to remember that the underlying emotion of my experience is what every other human being feels at one time or another. Remembering that we are all in this together reminds me of what I have in common with all sentient beings.

My specific moments are unique to me yet woven into the undulating life “web that has no weaver.”* One week it was a car mishap and the next moment it was a family member facing a life-threatening situation. The illness was not entirely unexpected, unlike the car incident, yet both provided a life-changing moment. Life churned.

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The car is repaired but the loved one’s recovery remains uncertain. The human body, our personal vehicle, endures a life of dents, and occasionally, broken parts. We heal or get replacements but I suspect the heart and mind–and in that order–have more to do with longevity than repairs to the physical body.

Regardless of the wearing out/replacing of parts, all are allowed a life, a length of time known to none but allotted to each. The not knowing churns the emotional pool within each of us. Whether we choose to immerse ourselves in the eddies of emotion or await the stillness that comes with reflection is the ongoing dilemma.

“Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed” (Indira Devi).

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Initially, I swirl within the emotional eddies more than I sit in reflective pause yet I know it is the motion that separates me from everyone else. The swirling, downward spiral isolates me in my own pain, unaware that my pain is what connects me to humanity.

“Shantideva said that since all sentient beings suffer from strong, conflicting emotions, and all sentient beings get what they don’t want and can’t hold on to what they do want, and all sentient beings have physical distress, why am I making such a big deal about just me? Since we’re all in this together, why am I making such a big deal about myself?” (Pema Chodron).**

Until we see in ourselves those emotions that we so readily assign to everyone else, we cannot pull ourselves out of our own pain to reflect on the pain that connects us all. In recognizing the human bond, we come to reflect on what is common to all.

We must dive deep to sit at the still waters of our own existence to reflect upon the life force that binds us all.

A personal note: As of this writing, my family member’s recovery continues to be remarkable as well as inspirational.

Text Notes:

*This phrase is from the title of Ted Kaptchuk’s thorough book, The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. I highly recommend it.

**Omega Institute is offering another online workshop with Pema Chodron on October 25-27 with early bird pricing. The event is sold out for anyone wishing to attend in person. Click here for more information.

18 thoughts on “Life Churns for Everyone so Why Swirl With the I?

  1. This struck me as I read: “Regardless of the wearing out/replacing of parts, all are allowed a life, a length of time known to none but allotted to each. The not knowing churns the emotional pool within each of us. Whether we choose to immerse ourselves in the eddies of emotion or await the stillness that comes with reflection is the ongoing dilemma.”

    Thank you. I, too, am churning with a beloved whose physical parts are wearing out and for whom the allotted time seems imminent but ultimately unknown. I appreciate your reflections. Namaste.

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  2. Karen, your ability to remind of us our connection with humanity helps to remind me of the joy that is life. Thanks for the Omega Institute link. I will be in an Interchange Seminar, but I would love to hear about Pema’s talk if you attend. I’m off to a 10 day silent retreat, but I will connect with you as soon as I return. {{{hugs]}} kozo

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  3. “Life Churns for Everyone.” So true Karen. It seems to never end. It is exhausting at times. So glad to hear that your family member is getting stronger and that your car recovered. Hang in there my dear friend. 🙂

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  4. I really love this image of our emotions like the swirls on the surface of the water and that it is settling into the deeper still waters that allows us to see how the pain in the emotional swirls is common to us all as we reconnect to the whole. Thank you for this reminder and this powerful image.

    I’m also glad to hear that your family member is recovering!

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    1. It is just so easy to be swept away in the emotional eddies and forget the calm below. That has been true for most of my life but it helps me when I remember that everyone goes through it. Thanks, Kenetha!
      Karen

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  5. You did amazingly well with these disturbing challenges — you are an inspiration to me! I’m trying to remember the shared humanity in these trying days when I’m so angry politically. I shared the quote last night that reminded me that we’re all molecules of the stars. Keep reminding me.

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    1. Here is a section of that wonderful quote, and thank you, Lizzie, for reiterating it: “…we are all truly one; we are molecules of the stars…one humanity” (Jane Fonda, at a recent appearance in Thomasville, Georgia).
      Karen

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  6. Thank you for this; it was just what I needed. I’ve been struggling to regain balance these last few days. When I find myself adjusting to change, I can’t find peace until I remember I am not in charge of the outcome. There is work to be done, but it will wait. I need to go be quiet for a while. “We must dive deep to sit at the still waters of our own existence to reflect upon the life force that binds us all.” Beautiful.

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    1. More and more, it is the draw of the stillness that draws me into myself where, as you say, I can be quiet for a while. There, I don’t even think about outcome. Thanks so much, Deb.
      Karen

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