A Way I No Longer Am

Bloom is off 0414Let me begin with a question: what of the moment when the cocoon is no more? All is new, unknown for this form of life. It is a moment of dramatic tension as well as one of wonder. Life is crisp, clear, completely in focus; there is just so much of it to explore.

One life has ended and another begins.

I had never considered the falling away of the cocoon. In not doing so, I missed the ending of one way of life and thus, the beginning of the next. Life cycles and while a cocoon is only a stage, each stage must have its moment—from beginning to end–so that the next may emerge. No matter how many times the cycle repeats each stage is unique.

It is not easy to let go of a way of life, especially the nurturing stage of a cocoon. Yet, in order to experience life through another perspective, the cocoon must fall away for the new form to live.

Five years ago I retired, believing I would regain my health by modifying my life. From a Buddhist perspective, I stayed stuck in samsara (the cycle of suffering), trying to live a way I no longer am.

I did not know then what I know now. The cocoon has fallen away, and the way of life that is emerging is familiar but its form is unique. It is one of less movement and more being.

In Buddhism, one develops the practice of loving-kindness and compassion as well as joy and equanimity for all in all things. I like to think of these “four sublime states” developing in stages as my practice of them grows. Some days, there is no growth but always, there is practice.

In these last two months, my practice has undergone such a dramatic change that my life feels new. I am curious and excited about this new form of being and what I will discover.Not a cocoon but a bud 0414

No longer trying to live a way I no longer am, I open to life turning on a dime. In a moment, it will turn again. Never has impermanence seemed so full of possibility. Once again, chronic illness opens me to another perspective, another way to be. I am not lupus or any of the labels that I have accumulated over the decades for as the Buddha taught, there is “no fixed or unchanged self.”

However, there is a body and a mind that cycle through my lifetime. For over half of that life, my mind and body experience has included autoimmune disease. Now, in this new stage of life, my mind and body are adjusting to the consequences of living with decades of disease. There is a wearing away of the old as the new comes into being.

In order to discover all this new stage offers, I must be more mindful than I have ever been. That much is clear. More rest for the body, more tolerance for the thought chatter.

I am neither my body nor my mind but I am experiencing a lifetime through them. For me, the challenge is and has been to be. Perhaps it is for most, as change excludes no one and no thing.

Stage after stage, the cocoon falls away.

16 thoughts on “A Way I No Longer Am

  1. When I was young my body and being were one and the same–a distinction between the two never occurred to me. Now, I think of my body as a dear friend, one that is beginning to need a few concessions. We will walk together for as long as we can, my body and I, and then, I will go on.


    1. I hear ya, Adrian! For more than the obvious reasons, I am more aware of my body’s sensations and remain amazed at how much it gives me each day. As you say, at some point, “I will go on.”


  2. This is a really beautiful post, Karen. I remember going through my own stage of this a few years ago when I began to realize that my time in the chrysalis was coming to a close, and it was time for me to begin emerging to a new life. I had been so focused on staying present and allowing the life that I had known before I entered that chrysalis period to melt away that I almost forgot that a day would come when I would need to emerge from that cocoon. It was rather a shock when I recognized what was happening. I love the way that you are moving into this new phase with such grace and awareness. Your courage in approaching the changes you are facing with such mindfulness and acceptance continually inspires me.

    Thank you for this well-written and thoughtful post! I wish you many blessings as you emerge from the cocoon into this new phase and all that it brings.


    1. It is a shock, isn’t it, but I am finding it fascinating as all seems so new but at the same time as if it has always been, if that makes any sense. Clearly, that is a post not yet ready. Thanks, Kenetha!

      P.S. I do remember you emerging. It was in the back of my mind as I wrote this post.


  3. “I am neither my body nor my mind but I am experiencing a lifetime through them.” So true. Isn’t this how we finally recognize that our purpose in life is simply to live our lives? Wise words, and as your cocoon falls to earth and adds to the composting soil below, you have the next step in the cycle to be in.


  4. How much easier it would be to stay in the cocoon, in the illusion of the cocoon. You point the way to new awareness, this moment of acceptance that our lives are changing always. This is really beautiful and thought-provoking.


  5. Truly nothing ever stays the same so we must be able to find ways of dealing with change whatever it brings. I love the butterfly analogy. Beautifully written post again, Karen.


  6. I am inspired by your courage and your wisdom. when i read the phrase “never has impermanence seemed so full of possibility,” a flash bulb went off in my brain, and I understood the power of embracing impermanence. and that in the midst of impermanence, there is something else, something unnameable, behind the mind, that is eternal.


    1. Ah, unnameable, that is the word for that “it” in impermanence. Thank you, Craig. I find that in embracing impermanence, there is less desire and less aversion. As a Buddhist, I know you appreciate that connection.


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