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Welcome to my island of sanity and serenity. I'm Sandra Pawula - writer, mindfulness teacher and advocate of ease. I help deep thinking, heart-centered people find greater ease — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Curious? Read On!

When Things Fall Apart: How to Cope in Difficult Times

When Did you know an eclipse - lunar or solar - can trigger sudden, irrevocable change in your life that comes about due to external circumstances? I used to fear eclipses for this very reason.

I disliked unexpected change.  The kind of change that can make your head spin in disbelief and leave your knees knocking loudly.  The kind of change you didn’t ask for.  The kind of change you don’t want.

Fortunately, every eclipse doesn’t effect every person so dramatically.  But still, you can’t escape change forever.  There’s also the unfolding of karma - the fruition of your past actions - which can twist your world around in abrupt and surprising ways.

Change will arrive in this lightning-like way at some point in your life.  What will you do?

Heart Advice for Difficult Times

My suggestion is to immediately stop on the spot and start reading When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön.  This thin volume, only 146 pages, is a primer on wrangling with change and winning.  As a side bonus, you receive an introduction to basic meditation, the practice of loving kindness and compassion, and the fundamental principles of Buddhism like impermanence, renunciation, and emptiness.

This is not a book for the faint of heart.  You’ve already had the rug pulled out from under you.  You’re probably scrambling for secure footing.  Now Pema Chödrön - this charming yet uncompromising Western nun - will try to convince you that feeling and being groundless is the best place to be.  She attempts to lure you into an intimate relationship with fear.  She says:

So the next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky.  This is where courage comes in.  Usually we think that brave people have no fear.  The truth is that they are intimate with fear.

The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought.  That’s what we’re going to discover again and again and again.  Nothing is what we thought.  I can say that with great confidence.  Emptiness is not what we thought.  Neither is mindfulness or fear.  Compassion—not what we thought.  Love.  Buddha nature.  Courage. These are code words for things we don’t know in our minds, but any of us could experience them.  These are words that point to what life really is when we let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present moment.

In these chapters, Pema Chödrön takes your hand, and shows you exactly how to lean into change, meet pain and suffering with curiosity, and loosen your grip so you can lighten up and relax into chaos.

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing.  We think that the points 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.  Then 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.

This part stuck me in particular:  “…things don’t really get solved.”  Because so much of life is about finding the solution, isn't?  Whatever we understand intellectually, on a deeper level we're anticipating happily-ever-after.

But what if things don’t really get solved?  I’ll leave you with that profound question.

So what do you think?  Do things get solved or not?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this and on flowing with uncertainty.

Thank you for your presence!  May you be well, happy, and safe - always.  With love, Sandra

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