One Of My Favorite Quotes

“For some strange reason, it seems to be a quality of living things to want to avoid the slippery, fluid moving quality and grab on—and just want the form without the emptiness. It’s never like that. It’s always both. Things come together and things dissolve. It’s like a continual birth and death, every second, like with every breath there’s a passing way…

“Sometimes it’s said that the spiritual path is essentially about learning to die. It’s also about learning to be born. But it doesn’t mean just dying when this body ceases to walk and talk. It means leaning to die, moment after moment, which is to say that fundamentally things are always in process. Things are not fixed. Things are moving and changing. Things are continually in a process of evolution. That includes us.

“Some of the Buddhists teachings have this cheerful teaching on “from the moment you’re born, you’re starting to die!” Another way of saying it is everything that manifests, everything that’s composite, is also falling apart. I think where this gets really interesting is that as a dynamic in our everyday, moment by moment, ordinary experience of life, for some reason we are programmed and patterned to resist this fluidness, this groundlessness—and all the practice is about learning to relax into groundlessness; learning to soften and open to the groundlessness.

“In other words, practice is about embracing the wholeness of experience, not just trying to avoid that which is groundless and grab onto that which is solid. As long as we resist the groundless part… we suffer a lot.”

–Pema Chodron, Awakening Compassion (audio)

From a spiritual perspective, every transition is an opportunity for growth. As we learn how to let go into ‘groundlessness’, we move into a more effortless alignment with life. Life is ever-changing, and when we approach transitions consciously and with the intention of growth, we eventually learn how to accept this truth with grace.

This is not an easy task. Transitions require no less than the willingness to die, to sit in the uncomfortable void, and to be reborn. Who would willingly embrace this task? For some of us, we have no choice. Transitions seem to pull us into the underworld and create such fear, pain, confusion, and disorientation that we must seek help. While in the throes of this challenge, this may seem unfair, and we may be plagued with questions like, “Why do others seem so blissfully happy during their engagement when my joy is accompanied by a sense of loss? Why do others move to a new city effortlessly when I feel terrified? How come she was able to re-marry so easily after her divorce when my heart is broken and I still have dreams about my ex?”

Yet when we finally emerge from the pain, we see that the struggle was well worth it. For to enter into the death-void-rebirth cycle is to embark on the heroine’s journey. And when the heroine returns from her voyage, she carries the boons—or jewels—of her travels. One of the great boons is that she knows, at a deeper layer of consciousness, that there can be no light without entering the darkness, and that with each descent into her darkness, the light shines ever more brightly. She knows that next time she is pulled into the darkness—which most likely will occur in the midst of her next major transition—she will be able to navigate the journey with grace. She trusts that, even as she cries and rages, she is exactly where she needs to be. She realizes that she is developing a capacity to die and be reborn and she recognizes that there is no greater spiritual task on earth.

7 comments to One Of My Favorite Quotes

  • Maya

    Hey Sheryl, I am curious as to how you view commitment in the context of impermanence. Not that I have a hard time being committed per say, but sometimes I struggle with making sense of this intellectually. It seems to me even that something like marriage is just another one of those ways in which we humans try to “grab on,” promising forever, til death, etc. This was one reason I had such a difficult time doing it, I had trouble understanding it. At the same time, marriage now makes a lot of sense to me from a Buddhist perspective of wanting to develop my mind spiritually, since it seems to be, in a world of unlimited options, one of the few remaining “forms” that forces us to grow (by changing our selves and not trying to futilely rearrange the external).

    • Maya – Great question. I actually encourage a lot of my clients to think about what they want to commit to in their vows. The commitment can be to growth, to learning about love, to inspiring each other through the marriage, etc. In other words, I personally believe that “til death do us part” is a somewhat outdated and meaningless phrase and that the commitment isn’t to stay together all at costs but, as you said, to develop spiritually.

      That said, I think people end marriage much too early too often because they don’t understand that marriage – as a third body unto itself – is always changing, which includes times of ebb and flow in terms of feeling in love or even loving toward your partner, feeling interested in the other person, etc. This is where the commitment enters the picture.

      • Maya

        Well great answer, thank you!! I agree many people lose out on the gifts of marriage because they don’t understand it. And I also agree that saying “at all costs” is just the ego and attachment, it doesn’t make sense to me. Probably a reason I had so much anxiety at the time I was engaged and newly married was that, by doing a traditional ceremony with traditional vows and feeling like I had to conform to what I saw as the “right/traditional” way of being engaged and married, I was not being true to my personal beliefs. Something so simple yet I couldn’t see it until more recently. At the time, though, I very much wanted to ensure we would be together forever because I feared death and uncertainty and losing him so much, so this tradition was very appealing. I’m sure it’s that way for many people even if they don’t realize it. Luckily I’ve been much more honest with myself since then, and talked a lot with my husband about how we see our marriage, which has helped me feel so much more relaxed and free. I want to say I regret not finding out more about your work sooner, but, I guess sometimes you have to come out the other side of something first before you are ready to understand it.

  • Kate

    Beautiful…I am just beginning to understand and work with what I used to see as ‘the negatives’ of life – being rejected, misunderstood, blamed etc. If I am unconscious about not loving a part of myself unconditionally, I will re-act to the negative and can come to an impasse becoming more numb or I can learn from that. The ‘negative’ from the other person was actually a tender and loving wake up call from the Divine Lover honing in on His next place of healing in me. The coming awake process is truly death to the self-hatred, self-rejection, self-condemnation and it seems as if the little crooks and crannies within me that contain these are endless. Accepting this and knowing I am destined to be redeemed out of them one by one helps me stay open hearted and I am being enabled to ‘bring home the gold’!
    The way you have written about the process being fluid brings these truths home to me in an even clearer way. Thank you.

  • You’re welcome, Kate. Thank you for sharing your process.

  • Hi Sheryl,
    How deeply moving and inspiring. Such a poetic expression on the waxing and waning of life. I have experienced what you describe as entering into the darkness and then emerging heroic into the light. And yes, from my deepest sorrows and pain, I have so fortunately been thrust into great light. Thank you for helping me at times to understand the darkness and enjoy the gifts of the journey.

    I love your blog and will definitely pass it on. Words that must be read by us all.

    Many blessings,
    Elaine

    Elaine Hall
    http://www.coacheonautism.com
    Author: Now I See the Moon: a mother, a son, a miracle

  • […] Yet when we finally emerge from the pain, we see that the struggle was well worth it. For to enter into the death-void-rebirth cycle is to embark on the heroine’s journey. And when the heroine returns from her voyage, she carries the boons—or jewels—of her travels. One of the great boons is that she knows, at a deeper layer of consciousness, that there can be no light without entering the darkness, and that with each descent into her darkness, the light shines ever more brightly. She knows that next time she is pulled into the darkness—which most likely will occur in the midst of her next major transition—she will be able to navigate the journey with grace. She trusts that, even as she cries and rages, she is exactly where she needs to be. She realizes that she is developing a capacity to die and be reborn and she recognizes that there is no greater spiritual task on earth.” – beautifully written by Sheryl at Conscious Transitions […]