Today I want to talk about falling down. We do it when we are little, in fact I did it a ton as a child! Most of us can’t remember when we were learning to walk, but if you have ever witnessed a toddler, a niece/nephew or friend’s child learn, then you get the idea. If you spend any time with kids you know one thing…they fall…a lot…and frequently with bumps, bruises, and crying. I mean, that’s why Target sells those cute animal shaped ice packs, right? And they totally are cool by the way, in all ways cool (as long as you freeze them!)
Ok so kids fall. Well, in the interest of full disclosure…a few years ago as a fully mature adult I fell. Actually I fall pretty well, gravity and me we have some history. But I fell by slipping on some wet leaves, in a yard, on grass, and broke my wrist…so I know a few things about falling, badly!
Well, I fell a three years ago…(before the wrist) and I didn’t get up. I mean of course figuratively. And I only realized it a couple of months ago. Let me explain…
I took the Buddhist vows of refuge along with other vows over the course of the last ten years. I have practiced meditation the last few years as well. I took some specific vows in 2013 and 2014, well one thing about Buddhist vows is that some of them require a daily practice. For instance, some Buddhist practices require a particular chant to be done a number of times (specified by a teacher/monk) once or multiple times a day, and many can be lifelong. Vows in general are serious karmic business (IMHO) so beware! Anyways, one day during massage school I forgot to practice and I spent so much time berating myself about it that I forgot again that week (here’s the fall) but instead of getting up after the second time…I laid there…for three years….and didn’t practice…not one bit.
Yup I fell and I DID NOT get up…I couldn’t. I had never learned from my family of origin and I was lost. I fell, and I didn’t know what to do. So, I laid there…I stopped practicing because, Hell, I already broke these vows…it didn’t matter now what I did, right?! Well that is what I thought, but it was really just accepting defeat, because I literally picture myself laying in a heap, on the floor, for three years, not moving.
And I didn’t move (spiritually)…not really. The Universe takes vows seriously in my opinion and so its serious business taking, breaking, and keeping them.
So, three years later…it’s the last week before the new year at the end of 2018 when I finally wake up and realize that I have broken (or think I have broken) vows. So after multiple emails to my Buddhist teachers, and conversations with my Buddhist friends I set up some meetings to figure out how to make things right.
I spoke with one of my teachers, and in wonderful Buddhist monk fashion he said ‘this happens to many people…did I regret? (yes, I said) then it is ok, keep going’ he said, the practice will purify the negative action. So simple So easy? So hard for me to do on my own…forgive myself. Unfortunately it became a stumbling block for me that lasted three years.
The lesson is quite amazing, and I think it holds true for everyone; that compassion we try to have for others, we need to spread some to ourselves, and it’s ok to do that, actually WE NEED to do that! Because if we can’t give compassion to ourselves, how can we truly give it to someone else? Easy to say, hard to do, I know from personal experience.
I believe that my teachers understand this much better than myself. They have learned to just get back up and keep going. That it is wasted effort and emotional energy to beat yourself up. So don’t cause yourself more suffering and waste time berating yourself, moving forward is better than standing still or lying down. Just keep moving. But sometimes we need some external help to get back up, so if you need it, then ask for it, and always keep moving forward. This holds just as true for minimalism as with any new or frankly, worthwhile thing. There will be set backs, it’s ok. There will be times we fall down, that is ok. What matters is if we get back up. As Pema Chodron says “Fail, fail again, better”. And remember, you deserve compassion too!
Your friend the slow minimalist,