“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”
-Agnes de Mille
What is it to Leap?
This quotation opens Pema Chodron’s book, “Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change,” my current read and spiritual inspiration.
Leaping into the dark is a bit scary and it’s also a little exciting and exhilarating too!
I don’t know about you, but I have about a gazillion habitual emotional and physical reactions that are symptoms of the fundamental uncertainty, the “not-knowing-ness” of the human condition.
The ironic thing is that (and this is one of the basic practices Pema Chodron describes in this book) by noticing the reactive pattern, refraining from acting it out, and sitting with the underlying emotion or energy, that underlying discomfort resolves, usually within a minute or so, and we can become, in that moment, free.
Yesterday I decided to try out the theory with an experiment to interrupt my sugar habit.
Here’s my typical pattern: I’m in the kitchen, fixing a cup of tea, or I’m bored and want a change of scene. I open the “treat” cupboard, and there are all the yummy sweets- muffins, chocolate, candy, chocolate, nuts and did I mention chocolate, and I know there is some home-made Christmas fruitcake tucked in the back of the fridge. From there it is nothing to justify a sweet treat, and unthinkingly follow through with sweet-to-mouth action, only to beat myself up afterward for failing to keep to my commitment to avoid sugar.
Yesterday, I took a leap into the dark. In my morning quiet time I made a decision that when the desire for a sweet treat hit, I would interrupt the pattern and stop for a moment to simply feel whatever I was feeling, to really notice the uncomfortable emotion and be present with it.
There I was, late-morning, in front of the treat cupboard, doors wide open. Just at that moment I luckily remembered my decision from earlier and put my plan into action. I stopped and tuned in to what I was feeling. At first, I noticed only a buzzing energy in my head and chest, but then I recognized the familiar restlessness of low-grade anxiety. I stayed with the feeling. To acknowledge what was actually happening in the moment, to let it have it’s air-time, well, on some level it felt good and basic and real. Within a few seconds, the feeling completely resolved. I felt calm and found myself effortlessly leaving the kitchen without a sweet treat, and without feeling deprived.
The Bottom Line
If you are a fan of Pema Chodron, or you struggle with difficult habits and patterns, or are just looking for a new way to be kind to yourself and others, this book has insights and simple practices to connect with humankind’s intrinsic good-heartedness. I whole-heartedly recommend it!