Thursday, September 8, 2011

The "In-Between State"

I do not know if you are familiar with Pema Chodron, a well known Buddhist nun.  She's written a number of books about meditation and applying it to your everyday life.  This passage from her book, The Places that Scare You.  If you have not read it, please do so. 

I read it a number of years ago and found it very helpful.  I actually remember this passage well about the "In-between state."  I think there are a lot of us that struggle with this in recovery.  As I like to say with anything I read, people I hear, etc., there is always something to learn from them all--take what you want and leave the rest.

We are told about the pain of chasing after pleasure and the futility of running from pain. We hear also about the joy of awakening, of realizing our interconnectedness, of trusting the openness of our hearts and minds. But we aren't told all that much about this state of being in-between, no longer able to get our old comfort from the outside but not yet dwelling in a continual sense of equanimity and warmth.
Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the in-between state. It's the kind of place we usually want to avoid. The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid. Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere only makes our hearts more tender. When we are brave enough to stay in the middle, compassion arises spontaneously. By not knowing, not hoping to know, and not acting like we know what's happening, we begin to access our inner strength. 
Yet, it seems reasonable to want some kind of relief. If we can make the situation right or wrong, if we can pin it down in any way, then we are on familiar ground. But something has shaken up our habitual patterns and frequently they no longer work. Staying with volatile energy gradually becomes more comfortable than acting out or repressing it. This open-ended tender place is called bodhichitta. Staying with it is what heals. It allows us to let go of our self-importance. It's how the warrior learns to love.


I Hate to Weight said...

this is gorgeous. thank you. i'm going to read it over and over.

JUST what i need. thank you again

Katie said...

I love this too! It's definitely applicable to recovery from all sorts of things. Thanks for sharing it :)

Kat said...

Oddly enough I read the name Pema Chedron for the first time yesterday when a friend of mine "liked" her on facebook. This excerpt was timely for me.

Telstaar said...

That is a fantastic passage that you have written out there. It means a lot to me in light of what my therapist has me doing and how uncomfortable it feels right now.

Thankyou sooo much for sharing!

Tiptoe said...

Glad everyone enjoyed the passage. I think her work is so relevant to many things in life.

Kat, I saw it on facebook the other day, so that was why I went ahead and posted it.