I wish I could take the pain away. I wish I could banish the clouds and polish the sky until it gleamed in the prettiest shade of periwinkle. I imagine there have been times she’s wished that for me. Yet, at times she seemed to delight in my heartbreak; in trying to make me feel small. I believe in my heart that if she had known a different way, she would have taken it. I wish for her heart to heal. That’s what I’ve always wanted. Yet now, more than ever, fighting invisible, shape-shifting specters of the mind, she faces formidable opposition.
I watch the lightning bugs in the yard. The rain seems to have brought them out. Floating, drifting, miniature lanterns that flash and then disappear. Transient stars. The air smells damp with the delicate scent of rose. I sit and wish. My heart breaks for her. My intention is set with prayer. Who or what has the power to heal her heart?
I reach out to what should be solid, and it sublimates in my hands. It feels like a continuous struggle. Names, games, and shunning. Judgement abounds. Nothing I do is enough. Then, at once, my effort is too much. Maybe the lesson is that I have no control over that. Maybe the lesson is about learning to let go. And yet, how, and where do I begin? The ties are strong and invisible. Like a tree that has grown over cables or chain wrapped around it. The metal is toxic to the tree, yet the tree still tries to heal itself. Unable to remove the tethers, it incorporates the poison into the fibers of its trunk.
Yesterday she loved me. Today she hates me. What will tomorrow bring? Possibility?
Pema Chödrön reminds me in her book “How We Live is How We Die,” that every situation has two levels of truth, relative and absolute. We see the relative truth of life as we each encounter difficulties and triumphs on our own, singular trek. Yet we can also step back and trace the ridgeline of life itself, across glorious peaks and treacherous, heart-wrenching valleys. It’s a matter of perspective. This lesson presents itself as a foundational question: in times of despair, how do we remind ourselves that all experiences, wonderful or woeful, are transient? How do we offer ourselves the wisdom and self-compassion to get through the impossible? Practice.
Many spiritual traditions and religions offer prayer or meditation as a way to access the absolute truth. One Buddhist teaching is to simply rest, undistracted, in the present; and when the mind ruminates in the past, simply return it to the present. But for many, this is difficult or impossible. To make the practice more accessible, Trungpa Rinpoche (a Buddhist teacher), asked meditators to relate to the out-breath as an object, but with a light touch. “Touch the breath as it goes out, and let it go.”
I have taught and practiced meditation for years, but never heard the out-breath described in this way.
Life is mysterious and profoundly difficult. It is also glorious and beautiful beyond description. Each day offers opportunities to gain experience. Many are painful. Touching the breath as it goes, to me, is like letting go of hurt, one exhalation at a time. Feeling the duality carried by the caress and cut of love. Loosening its grip on the emotions. Teaching ourselves to swim within the thalweg of change, buoyed by the wisdom that in one future moment, the current may shift.
Most certainly, it will.
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