“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
– Pema Chödrön
Whenever I’ve felt fear in my life, my first reaction is to ground myself. This is how we humans operate in the world: in order to feel more control over our lives, we try to steady ourselves from falling over. For example, I talk about feet constantly in class– feel your feet, feel your legs, feel the ground, “ground down.”
I used to think the earth was a solid mass, that we can really find the “ground.” But then while reading Pema Chodron (go out and read one of her many books as fast as you can– you won’t be sorry) I realized something.
My moments of extreme anxiety are usually experienced as a loss of control, a sense of myself drowning or disintegrating, that I can be anyone or anything that comes across my landscape — vulnerability to the highest extreme. When peering into the source of my own anxiety, I realized I am constantly searching for solid ground that does not exist. Yes, I teach about feeling the earth, feeling the ground, “grounding down,” but really that ground is only relevant in the present– it only exists in this moment, the next moment is a groundless one.
See, there is no guarantee in life. This is the essence of fear and anxiety. Pema would say the only thing to do is to soften into the river of being alive, to learn how to be okay with insecurity because the fundamental essence of this life is constantly changing. It can be really scary (like we’re losing something) because time is so uncatchable.
But it can also allow us to enjoy the sweetness of every single moment, even the ones that are hard and painful. We suffer and see how everyone else is suffering in the same way, all from this same groundlessness, this same complete vulnerability of life. In this way, we can choose to let it make us feel more connected and alive to everyone else.
“Here is something very profound. Because all I see now as I look out of my eyes at the world, I see that a lot of us are just running around in circles pretending that there’s ground where there actually isn’t any ground. And that somehow, if we could learn to not be afraid of groundlessness, not be afraid of insecurity and uncertainty, it would be calling on an inner strength that would allow us to be open and free and loving and compassionate in any situation. But as long as we keep trying to scramble to get ground under our feet and avoid this uneasy feeling of groundlessness and insecurity and uncertainty and ambiguity and paradox, any of that, then the wars will continue.”- Pema Chodron
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”