I am packing up my house, with my husband and daughter, after 16 happy years and moving to be closer to Samye Ling. There is a lot to do and so many boxes, so many things to sort. The house is chaotic: the bathroom ceiling came down because of a leak from next door’s roof, we have had to get a new car because the old one is packing up, we are having the usual struggle to get internet in the new place and there are the last minute legal details to attend to on the house purchase. Typical story when moving house.
Also, my daughter is about to leave home.
I am tired, not sleeping too well and my patience is wearing thin. I am struggling to keep my calm when someone has removed the masking tape and scissors from the designated box construction area or when someone piles half packed boxes in my practice room!
I feel a growing resentment that “I” am having to do it all, which is nonsense as my poor husband is working as hard as I am. I notice passive aggressive impulses, that I am struggling to hold.
A big part of the problem is my expectation that after so many years of practice I should be able to waft through these transitions without a care. I find that I am disappointed at the stress reaction that is happening, despite my rationalising that ultimately everything is OK!
I am piling on the layers of suffering and don’t seem able to stop.
So how do I navigate these few weeks?
The habits of practice that I have developed over the years are helping. Also, writing a list of what needs to be done is helping to maintain a comforting delusion of control.
So my formal practice, including settling breathing and soften, soothe and allow in grounding are helping to physiologically soothe my overactive threat system. Formal Tonglen practice for those who I know have far more serious problems than me is helping me to be less self-involved and over focussed – navel gazing – on my own problems. Resting with the breath, gives some sense of space and perspective within this busy mind, which is prone to planning at the best of times and is now obsessively preparing for every imagined eventuality. For a while I can sit back and watch its crazy activity instead of living it.
Informal practice is also seeing me through the day. The Mindfulness bell on my phone is going off randomly a few times an hour. When this happens, I do a familiar daily life Insight practice: I feel my feet, spread out my focus to my whole body, then I reflect “What is this experience?” and then “Who is having it?”. I find this gives me a sense of space and perspective and loosens my egocentric concerns.
Then I have my daily reminder alarms going off, bringing helpful phrases to read on my phone, such as “Don’t control – don’t try to make things happen”, “Abandon all hope of fruition” and “Judge everything as good”. When these come up I often laugh at myself caught up in the opposite and this helps me to lighten up. Humour is essential.
I also have Lama Yeshe Rinpoche’s teachings, Steven Fry reading Harry Potter and my favourite music playlist on my phone to listen to, when a soothing distraction is required to help me through.
I am reminded of Jon Kabat-Zinn saying “Weave your parachute before jumping out of the aeroplane”. We practice during the easy times to prepare ourselves for the hard times.
So, if you are having an easy time, focus on embedding the habits of formal and informal practice and be grateful for the easy time.
If you are having a hard time, use your parachute and hope for the best.
I am endeavouring to use my parachute and the back- up safety chutes. I am aspiring to be grateful for any insight or personal growth that will hopefully come with going through these stressful transitions.
Oh and I am looking forward to a happy settled future in a new home and a daughter happily embarking on a meaningful life path, even if I am also aspiring to abandon all hope of fruition!
Ok – I am going to jump out of the plane again now.
Happy sky diving!
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