I’ve been reading a wonderful little book called “The Wisdom of No Escape” by Pema Chödrön. An American Buddhist nun, she is the resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Abbey sits atop a towering cliff overlooking the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Joe and I discovered it quite by accident, and were fortunate to receive a tour during their visiting hours. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place that’s difficult to leave.
Pema Chödrön’s book, recommended by our young Buddhist host, is a guide to being with oneself “without embarrassment or harshness.” As I’ve savored these chapters before bedtime, I’ve noticed a subtle change occurring between my ears. I’ve found lately that I’m more aware of my own brokenness, and more accepting of the fact that I don’t always have to be perfect, in control, or even wise.
While this may be obvious to most, for me it was a revelation that occurred at 2:00 AM when I lay awake worrying about things far into the future. As I found my anxiety level rising, I became even more upset with my own foolishness. “What good does it do to worry about these things?” I scolded myself. “You know better than that! Be present! Be in the moment! Breathe! IN! OUT!” Instead of relaxing I became even more anxious about my inability to meditate “correctly.” It’s no wonder -- I sounded more like a drill sergeant than a loving teacher.
And then I thought about Pema Chödrön’s wise words. I looked a little deeper and saw my brokenness. The way I worry too much about things I can’t control. The idea that everything I do must be perfect. The embarrassment of realizing that I still crave approval and recognition. But instead of chastising myself, I felt compassion for these bits of brokenness. I saw them not as faults to be condemned but the very fiber of my humanness.
As spiritual beings living a human existence, our job is not to become perfect but to become more aware of ourselves as we really are, warts and all. This is not to say we shouldn’t improve ourselves. By changing what goes on in our mind, we determine our own level of suffering or happiness. But now and then, if we’re paying attention, we’ll become aware of our darker side. And instead of being harsh, we’ll be able to say, with loving kindness, “There you go again, Sweetheart. You know this path always leads to suffering.”
By embracing my own brokenness, I’m learning to be kinder and more gentle with myself and others. I’m willing to acknowledge those dark places now, and even visit them, so that true healing and understanding can blossom. Fear, jealousy, anxiety, pride, greed – whatever your brokenness is, learn to recognize and embrace it. Only then can you gently begin to create a happier space between your ears.