“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.