Series Two: Blog Twenty-Six
May 4, 2021
Author and Buddhist monk Pema Chodron shares a wonderful story about walking along the beach lost in her thoughts. As she mindlessly strolled, a big wave moved in, knocked her off her feet, and rolled her along the bottom of the ocean floor. She stated that she sucked in salt water, and sand poured into every orifice of her body. She said she thought she might drown. Then the wave released its grip and she stood up, only to get smacked with another wave that knocked her down. She stated that this continued to be the way it was for a short time that seemed like an eternity. However, before she was rescued, she learned that the wave could take her down but she gained confidence that she could rise again. Upon reflection, she observed that much of her life had metaphorically been like the waves she endured. Many of life’s tribulations and trials had knocked her off her feet but she was able to rise again. In truth, she shared that now some of the waves that used to knock her off her feet are not even noticed. Her point was that her understanding of unconditional confidence came not from being able to control the results in life, but rather in the truth she learned that she could be knocked off her feet by life’s trials and struggles and always be able to rise back to the surface. So a key principle of life is that you will go down but you can always rise again.
The challenge to Chodron’s metaphor comes when you break down what it means to go down and come back up. First, you must assess what is it about life that drags you down. It can be a broken heart, physical illness, an act of betrayal, failure, and a number of other types of crisis. Going down can feel like a free fall. If you have never jumped out of an airplane or off a cliff into water, you have missed the experience of your stomach pushed into your throat and the sense of helpless free falling with no control to stop it. Yet, that’s what crisis in life can do to each of us. When the rug is pulled out from under you, there is a stunned response to the disappointment and heartache that failure can bring. Feelings like anger, shame, resentment, remorse, regret. and overwhelming sadness cascade with no way to turn the faucet off. It is overwhelming.
So, when Chodron says you must be able to go down, what does it look like? It is terrifying! Going down means to sit with the reality of negative experience without trying to escape it. Here are some considerations when you face going down after life pulled the rug from under you.
Chodron suggests that this process is what cultivates unconditional confidence. It is not that the results will be just what you hoped for, but whatever the outcome, you will be able to go down and come back up. Every addict needs to have this confidence when struggling with the recovery journey.
It is important to describe the process of coming back up. Coming back up does not look like the “before” and “after” advertisement from some weight loss or body building program. There can be the suggestion that when you come back up all is good with no more struggle. The truth is that there is always struggle. While the challenge of healing hurt and disappointment can be overcome, it will always be present and a part of who you are as a human being.
That said, when you redirect your energy of feeling to the destiny you want, you begin to shape a future free of destructive behavior patterns. Your life will open up to the possibilities of transformation that are beyond what you ever thought you could create. This is the way of recovery. In one sense we are a compilation of all that we have ever done in our lives. At the same time, our recovery journey will take us to new realizations in behavior and awareness that we never knew existed. Going down and coming back up is a journey that makes this destiny a reality for those willing to engage lifestyle recovery.
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