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As one of Pema Chodron’s grateful students, I have been learning the most pressing and necessary lesson of all: how to keep opening wider my own heart.” – Alice Walker

A generous friend once left me a copy of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron, American Buddhist nun and resident teacher at Nova Scotia’s Gampo Abbey. I’ve flipped back through these warm-hearted, insightful essays time and again, and they’ve never failed to provide comfort and perspective. In moments that seem almost unbearable, she reminds us that “this very moment is the perfect teacher.” How do we face painful emotions, fears and chaos with compassion and friendly curiosity? How do we apply the practice and concepts of meditation to our everyday conflicts, disappointments, losses, and stuckness? How do we bring kindness and wisdom to our work and social action? Pema’s voice is soothing, firm and gentle, and her love tough and honest.

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” – Pema Chodron

In Chinese medicine, fall is a time of grieving and letting go. Sometimes we approach “healing” as an attempt to control our bodies, minds, emotions, or circumstances. What I’ve come to believe is it’s the opposite of control, but lovingly watching and letting go. Letting go of control and of the “should’s” (how we should feel, how that person should treat us, how situations should turn out, etc.). As Pema says, to make space for it all – to be fully alive is to know I’ll be okay, when faced with the full palette of human experience and emotion.

And on that note, I wish you a beautiful, messy, real season of change.

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