“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” -Pema Chödrön
I've been chilling with Pema Chödrön and Harshada Wagner, in my tiny virtual world.
It's not always that I am able to really hear what a teacher has to say. So when my ears open, I listen, and listen, and listen. It's as if a certain amount of emotional static has to leave my life before I can hear. All the more reason to pony up and do the hard work. Static reduction. We all need it. Clear skies.
Harshada has been sitting on my shoulder for weeks now, giving me verbal high fives when I catch my thinking going south, helping me u-turn. He has a sweet, playful meditation that asks us to recognize the violence we do to ourselves with our words. He challenges us to confront this violence with kindness, with grace. So instead of "Stupid, stupid, you forgot that appointment", you get to be your own benevolent master and student: "Good job! You remembered that you had an appointment, and now you can reschedule it". This seemed perhaps too simple to me at first. I tried it the next morning in the car when I realized I was on auto-pilot, and driving in the wrong direction. I had the knee-jerk reaction of speaking out loud to myself, chastising myself: "Stupid, stupid, wrong way"...and then I heard a tiny voice in the backseat, mimicking me. Harshada popped onto my shoulder with his cardigan, belly and beard and I edited my response: "Good job, Mama! You realized you were driving the wrong way, and now you can turn around!" ***small voice mimics***.
It goes without saying, maybe, that this is the voice of kindness I most want for my kids, yes, and also, for myself. Hot damn, I want it for the whole world. My fallibility is just that: human, real, inevitable. Doctrines of grace abound to give me a deep-rooted sense of safety, but simple tools like the one above give me the mortar I need to be wholly human, vulnerable and strong at the same time. The example I give is trivial - but the power of this practice is undeniable. I've used it on biggies, too, in the past few weeks - and I can attest to its power.
Pema sits in my heart space and reminds me that I am capable of shaky tenderness. I listened to this several times, in bits and pieces, over the past two weeks. I find it easier to listen to teachings than read them, something about the act of quietly listening allows things to penetrate for me in a way that doesn't happen when I read. I think, too, this is why I am so loving church right now. The very gift of sitting quietly and giving my full attention to someone's encouragement and wisdom feels like a pretty radical act of kindness towards myself.
So, Pema: she reminds me to lean in when I want to run. It takes more attention but infinitely less energy, and, at least for me,when I lean in I move forward, rather than chasing my tail. She tells me: that I can come up, and I go down, and I can come back up. I spent two days sick in bed last week, two days packing and taking care of a third child, and 4 days camping with (sick!) kiddos and my mom. Pema talked me all the way into Yosemite Valley last week and all the way back out early this week. She walked with me along the raging creek and the calmer places in the water. She helped me see the raven at the roadside when we stopped to calm poor sad, nauseous Gemma. She helped me clean up diarrhea from sick children and bridge conflict in my family with quiet and gentle clarity. I look at all the ugly in myself, and I look at all the yum. Sit down, drink some water, stay here.
Good job, Mama. You are the sky. And how I love my weather.