First of all, I want to thank each of the folks who have offered comments on my recent NaBloPoMo posts. I wish that I were responding personally each time, but the state of my life these past two weeks has made it a huge challenge to get a post written each day. So please know that I really appreciate the fact that you read my words and take the time to comment.
Last year, Pema Chodron published a small book that contains the text of a commencement speech she gave at Naropa University in 2014. This volume was not one of the ones that I pulled off of the shelf yesterday and I think I know the reason why. The title, perhaps, cut too close to the bone, that is, it seemed to name the emotion I was channeling, for myself, for women, for the progressive movement in this country.
The title is fail, fail again, fail better: wise advice for leaning into the unknown. Failing. Such an icky, defeating and defeated word. In my heart of hearts, beneath the all the heartsick feelings, I know that we did not fail. Still, I could not face that book title yesterday. After a little more sleep, some work in the garden, a visit from the little ones in my life (one and two-years-old) and a previously scheduled visit with my doctor of 35 years, I’m less dazed and more present today.
So, here is the wisdom that I found when I took fail, fail again, fail better from the shelf and opened it. The lesson really resonates for me, because the metaphor is something I have experienced physically, more than once. Maybe you have also.
This advice came to Pema from her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. This story was his response when she said: “I have hit the bottom. I don’t know what to do. Please help me.”
It seems to me that many of us felt like we had ‘hit the bottom’ this past week. He shared this story with Pema, she shared the story with the graduating students that day and now I am passing it on to you.
“Well,” he said, “it’s a lot like walking into the ocean, and a big wave comes and knocks you over. And you find yourself lying on the bottom with sand in your nose and in your mouth. And you are lying there and you have a choice. You can either lie there or you can stand up and start to keep walking out to sea.”
‘So, basically, you stand up, because the “lying there” choice equals dying. Metaphorically, lying there is what a lot of us choose to do at that point. But you can choose to stand up and start walking, and after a while another big wave comes and knocks you down. You find yourself at the bottom of the ocean with sand in your nose and sand in your mouth, and again you have the choice to lie there or to stand up and start walking forward.’
“So the waves keep coming,” he said. And you keep cultivating your courage and bravery and sense of humor to relate to this situation of the waves, and you keep getting up and going forward.”
‘This was his advice to me. Trungpa then said, “After a while, it will begin to seem to you that the waves are getting smaller and smaller. And they won’t knock you over anymore.” That is good life advice.’
I hope to carry this advice with me going forward, as we must.
Inshallah. Ojalá. Blessed be.