One morning you might wake up
to realize that the knot in your stomach
had loosened itself and slipped away,
and that the pit of unfulfilled longing in your heart
had gradually, and without your really noticing,
been filled in—patched like a pothole, not quite
the same as it was, but good enough.
And in that moment it might occur to you
that your life, though not the way
you planned it, and maybe not even entirely
the way you wanted it, is nonetheless—
persistently, abundantly, miraculously—
exactly the way it is.
By Lynn Ungar
This poem speaks to me about one of the fruits of mindfulness practice: the grace and quiet joy that can come with radical acceptance. And of how this is often a gradual shift, almost unnoticed until reading back a journal from a few years ago, or speaking with a friend you’ve lost touch with for a while. And suddenly you notice: I’m not so hard on myself as I used to be, or: there is more spaciousness in my day to day life even though I still do all these things that are important to me, or: I move through my life with more joy in my heart.
There may have been some significant moments along this journey that stand out, but mostly these deep changes are like changing the course of an oil tanker rather than of a canoe. And we can’t force those changes happen through sheer willpower, we can only create the conditions for them to occur by attending to this moment. Again and again we can choose to drop the story of how things should be different and come back to the richness of the present – which is ‘persistently, abundantly, miraculously—exactly the way it is.’
And there’s a paradox there! I often struggle with giving up my preference for how I/you/the world should be, part of me just wants to get it my way by hook or by crook. And then Pema Chodron invites me to “lower your standards and relax as it is”. Really?! Isn’t that giving up and giving in?! Not quite. For my actual experience is that when I truly relax into how it is, there’s also an opening, and warming, and a softening into connection, which is precious way beyond hanging on to my preferences. Especially when, as the meditation teacher Adyashanti says, “if you argue with reality, you always lose”…
So here’s to practising, and loosening knots!