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.

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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).

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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.

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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.