"Shadows and Light
- At the Desert Retreat House -
- At the Desert Retreat House -
While reading this morning’s paper, I came across an article written by someone who was reflecting on all the recent racially-motivated violence pouring onto our city streets, posing a question about whether or not American society is becoming undone, unmoored and unravelled? While I can certainly understand why a question like that might be raised in light of all the chaos of the past days, it also made me wonder if perhaps “unravelling” is always such a bad thing? As I see it, “chaos” is inherent in all life and unravelling may be an opportunity for new growth to emerge.
The Buddha taught:
Everything is impermanent,
when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.
I find great truth in this ancient wisdom.
Today’s scientists tell us that from the tiniest little quark to the massive array of multiple universes everything and everyone is a swirling mass of energy that is dynamically and constantly changing – always in a process of becoming something else.
Buddhist nun and teacher, Pema Chodron, puts it this way:
That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeing and impermanent
is the first mark of existence.
Everything is in process,
every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings and buildings,
the animate and the inanimate –
always changing, moment to moment.
As I read that newspaper article this morning about everything becoming unmoored and unravelled, I realized that, in essence, who and what I was only yesterday had become somewhat undone and unmoored, I was essentially a different person from who I was yesterday morning when I read the paper at the same time and in the same place - the very world, the universe, the cosmos had become something other than what it was only a day before.
Over the last 24 hours my body has become somewhat different, old cells have died away and new cells have grown. My mind has also become something different than it was just yesterday. Everything that happened since I last read yesterday morning's paper has made me different, the people I encountered throughout the day, the emails I read, the political rhetoric I heard, all of it had unravelled who I had been and fashioned me into something new and other than what I was before. Everything and everyone, including me, had literally "changed" overnight.
The idea of being unmoored or unravelled is usually quite a scary concept for most of us. We would rather see everything as permanent and fixed because somehow this makes us believe we have more control over our lives - our ego tricks us into believing the myth of permanence. If our lives are something like a machine with parts, then all we need do is push some buttons and manipulate the parts and the the world will move along according to our own planned agenda. But if everything and everyone is a process of ongoing dynamic change we are forced to hand over our rigid control and instead embrace the world as it comes to us - new every morning.
The Buddha teaches that a recognition of impermanence turns us away from suffering - I think this is very true. A recognition of impermanence helps me to focus on each and every moment, realizing that what was no longer is and what will be has not yet come. So all I can do is look at the surprises of every single moment of every single day in a world that never stays the same. Paying attention to the surprises of every new moment is the source of great joy.
Priest and author Richard Rohr talks about the value of falling apart and becoming unmoored on a spiritual path:
Most of us need to have the status quo shaken
leaving us off balance and askew.
In this uncomfortable space we can finally recognize
the much larger Kingdom of God.
I wonder what today will bring?