I want continuity
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the disruption, or rupture, of Pema Khandro’s article.
We have all had it. That moment of losing one’s footing, of getting the rug pulled out from under us. It is disorienting, jarring.
Physical pain can cause it, as can emotional trauma. We have all been in that kind of pain. It stops you dead in your tracks. The world becomes very small very quickly. Time operates differently. There are no plans because the concept of a future becomes meaningless.
I spent most of last year in that state. I am looking for something a whole lot better than terminal trauma.
That sense of time standing still is a by-product of trauma. It is also the end of learning. Learning requires a sense of continuity, of cause-and-effect. I have known far too many people that live for the moment. They are, to put it nicely, not very bright, in general. Their living for the moment is based upon some very bad assumptions: the social safety net will be there for them in a time of need, their friends and family will be helpful when necessary, their incomes will continue regardless of their behavior, etc. Karma catches up with them and, oops, they are on the verge of homelessness.
Living solely for today is a recipe for disaster when tomorrow does come. For example, this past week, one of Barry’s sisters called us on the phone late at night and left drunken voicemail messages. Does she even remember what she did? This is why I don’t drink. I already have shame issues; I cannot imagine what I would feel if I recalled leaving drunken messages on my brother’s voicemail. Alcohol reduces people’s inhibitions and her behavior proved what I have always said: inhibitions are good and people desperately need them. Do what you want, but not much learning will likely occur if you are intoxicated when you do the questionable behavior. I firmly believe it is fine to make mistakes. Every human makes mistakes. The problem is when learning from those mistakes does not occur. I am not responding to the drunken messages because there would be no point in doing so. I just felt bad for her, sitting at home drinking alone and calling us in the middle of the night. It struck me as sad. I am not angry, but I am also not going to invite her to Barry’s funeral when that day comes. I don’t want drunk people there. I’ve been to funerals when drunken people show up. It is hard to watch. Tomorrow will come. The sun rises and the consequences for one’s behavior become all too real.
I have been looking for a different perspective, one less trauma-based and more fluid. Stephen Levine, of course, is helpful. Reading A Year to Live has been very interesting. I keep running into processes.Maybe this is what I am attuned to right now. Talking about a commitment to life, on page 40 he says, “We take responsibility for being alive, recognizing that responsibility is the ability to respond instead of the compulsion to react. We explore it all: that in us which at times wishes to be dead as well as that in us which never dies.” Then, on page 85, talking about a life review, he says:
“It takes a thousand moments of remembering for us to stay open long enough to relate wholeheartedly to our past instead of from it. And to recognize that what you imagined to be unworkable is already in process….When we sense there is something in us greater than even our sacred emptiness can describe, first our body, then our mind, and soon our heart, dissolve into a clarity and vastness for which the word God would be insufficient.”
Let’s look at the verbs: recognizing, remembering, sensing, dissolving. Even the word “process” is mentioned.
I read those things and had a Eureka! moment. That’s it. I need to focus on processes and which processes I want to be a part of. Processes include: doing dishes, yard work, learning Spanish, volunteering, meditating, emotional and spiritual transformation, etc. Movement is a sign of life. If something doesn’t move or respond, it is time to check it for a pulse. If I am going to live, I want to be careful about the processes I involve myself in.