On our cell phone’s Kindle, we mostly keep books that we can open anywhere to get a chunk of insight during short periods that pepper our day, like waiting on line at the post office or riding the subway. Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart is a particularly potent one; recently we opened to this rich hunk. We were stunned at how perfect it is for this very unsettling time in our country when many people we know are casting about for paths of action, and how much it teaches on a purely personal level.
When we realize that the path is the goal, there’s a sense of workability. Trungpa Rinpoche said, “Whatever occurs in the confused mind is regarded as the path. Everything is workable. It is a fearless proclamation, the lion’s roar.” Everything that occurs in our confused mind we can regard as the path. Everything is workable.
If we find ourselves in what seems like a rotten or painful situation and we think, “Well, how is this enlightenment?” we can just remember this notion of the path, that what seems undesirable in our lives doesn’t have to put us to sleep. What seems undesirable in our lives doesn’t have to trigger habitual reactions. We can let it show us where we’re at and let it remind us that the teachings encourage precision and gentleness, with loving-kindness toward every moment. When we live this way, we feel frequently—maybe continuously—at a crossroads, never knowing what’s ahead. It’s an insecure way to live. We often find ourselves in the middle of a dilemma—what should I do about the fact that somebody is angry with me? What should I do about the fact that I’m angry with somebody? Basically, the instruction is not to try to solve the problem but instead to use it as a question about how to let this very situation wake us up further rather than lull us into ignorance. We can use a difficult situation to encourage ourselves to take a leap, to step out into that ambiguity. This teaching applies to even the most horrendous situations life can dish out. Jean-Paul Sartre said that there are two ways to go to the gas chamber, free or not free. This is our choice in every moment. Do we relate to our circumstances with bitterness or with openness? That is why it can be said that whatever occurs can be regarded as the path and that all things, not just some things, are workable. This teaching is a fearless proclamation of what’s possible for ordinary people like you and me.”
It is also an approach to learning/healing/growing out of our confused mind when we find we’ve made mistakes (which we do, a lot). Trungpa Rimpoche’s words are at once gentle, fierce, forgiving.
Whatever occurs in the confused mind is regarded as the path. Everything is workable. It is a fearless proclamation, the lion’s roar.
The image of the blue path is from Come with Me, photographer Ellie Davis extraordinary portfolio of paths we take, and possibilities.