When things fall apart

Sharing one of my ‘dharma talks’ back in Jan 2016 as I was crossing the threshold of being a yoga teacher training rookie, and beginning to really physically understand the alignment points, and psychologically tune inward to maneuver in the concrete jungle.         

Dharma talk on Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart – 1/23/2016

This is the second draft of the dharma talk, as just when I finished my first draft, my world really fell apart and it was through reading the section in the book once more, and asana and pranayama practice that I found the encouragement and support for myself again.

It happened on the fourth business day of 2016, when everyone was still in the celebration mood of the new year and embracing reluctantly the fact that the bitter cold winter really came. My boss pulled me out of a team meeting, and told me that my role at the team had been eliminated due to strategic restructuring, and I need to pack my personal belongings and leave immediately. There it was, my world fell apart. I moved from Asia to New York for this job; I met and married my husband through this job; I built a book of client relationships that I truly cared and treasured in the last seven years on the job. That was my dream job on Wall Street… In the next few days, I tried to hold it up together and focus on my future plan, but whenever that mixed feeling of confusion, disappointment, anger and frustration hit me, tears would cloud my eyes in less than a second.

‘We are never going to know if we are going to fall flat or sit up tall.’ Pema Chodron said in her book. ‘Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit.’ I can let myself drown by the ‘dark side of the worldly dhamas of pain, loss, disgrace or blame’, or I can take this opportunity to think about what I really want to achieve in the next stage of my career.

‘Disappointment occurs when there is attachment to outcomes’. However, if we can understand that the outcomes are themselves transitional, can the emotional setback be temporary and turned around into something better? The most important knowledge that I took away from yoga teaching training so far is recognize differences and embrace impermanence. Everyone’s body and mental status are born and grown different, and every yoga pose is not meant to be practiced perfectly by everyone. We will have to, through practice, recognize the features of our own bodies and make adjustments to find the variation that works the best for us. And that status is evolving and in constant transition itself, requiring us to re-practice, re-recognize, re-adjust and re-settle with our body and mind all the time. I remember how I calmed myself down when I got frustrated at not being able to kick into an adho muhka vrksasana against the wall – I welcomed the transition and opened my mind to it to find out why I couldn’t do it. In the following days of practice, I paid special attention to the openness of the chest, the operation of the shoulder girdle, the strength of legs and the alignment of the pelvis. At the point where I could actually kick into a handstand, I was surprised that it didn’t even matter to me that much anymore. I knew it was yet again a transition, and focused more on the ease of breath in the pose, the physical consistency and psychological persistency.

‘It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately filling up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness’. Living in the concrete jungle, we are used to rushing to finish something and moving on to the next agenda. Our comfort zone is when we accomplish something. We need to plant a voice in our heart to tell us that it’s ok to not achieve it at this moment – It is perhaps ok for me not to have my dream job now – back off from our attachment to competitiveness and simply recognize it as a transition. It could very well become the constant motivation for us to live with more courage in a more spacious world.

‘How we stay in the middle between indulging and repressing is by acknowledging whatever arises without judgement, and going back to the openness of this very present moment’. Welcome the transition, embrace the challenges. When you are the weakest and most vulnerable is when you find your strongest self.

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