How will you create your life one tiny sliver of existence at a time?
Every moment of every day, we have the opportunity to choose how we’re going to live our life. We can lean into fear. Or we can stretch toward love.
We can choose to give into the thoughts and emotions that fill our days, dragging us along on their journeys of self-criticism, judgement, anxiety, scarcity, fear. Dwell deeply in the regrets and pains of the past or be entranced wholly by the glowing promises of the future.
The other option is to free ourselves from these thoughts and allow our consciousness to focus instead on the now. This is one of the most striking insights from Pema Chodron’s Embracing the Unknown: Life Lessons from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Striking for me, at least.
It gives this universality to all our experiences, every one of us on earth, even if we think we’re somehow unique in our suffering, alone in our grief. Pema Chodron brings our attention down to every single moment, creating a foundation for a life built one tiny sliver of existence at a time.
Like when a client emails me with a writing project. In the past I would often struggle with uncertainty. Will I be able to do a good job? Will I have enough time to finish the project by the deadline? Will the client hate my work? Will she decide to never call me again?
This time, I make a different choice. When the old feelings of inadequacy and lack start to surface in my mind, I let them go.
Instead, I focus on the moment, on thinking through my schedule, on responding to my client’s email, on writing the proposal she wants to see. I leave aside any past struggles with putting together work estimates — I just do it. And I enjoy it.
When I start to get annoyed with the administrative constraints of the proposal, I find ways to keep the flow going. I look for examples on the Internet, I ask my wonderful husband for his opinion, I take a break. Until the proposal is done, and I send it off without a second thought — way different from what a past me would have done, with her focus on fear and lack and insecurity.
It’s completely freeing.
Think of it: we have the freedom in every moment to choose — and that choice brings one moment to an end and births a new one.
As Pema Chodron so wisely points out, every moment is the opportunity to step away from samsara, to get off the wheel of suffering, and choose peace. And that peace can birth the next moment and the next.
So that we build a whole hour, day, life, of moments, but moments of love and peace, rather than fear and lack. What do you want the building blocks of your life to be?
A challenging thought enters our mind and we have the power to not get carried away with it. We can decide to focus instead on our breath. On the clouds moving through the sky. On the feeling of warmth from the sun on our skin. On the coolness of the water as we wash our hands in the sink. On the sound of our computer keys as our fingertips touch them. On the moment and all the abundance that exists there.
Every moment we live in uncertainty because we haven’t made our choice. Yet we struggle with that groundlessness. Our mind wants everything in its place and accounted for, with everyone safe and sound. A thought about ourself or someone in our life arises in our mind and we want to understand it, hold onto it, twist it into something we can control.
In the past, when a client called out of the blue, I would try to get a sense of certainty, even if that certainty was focused on fear and insecurity. I’d turn the moment into a problem to be fixed — and feel anxious and worried, not realizing that I was creating the anxiety and worry with every passing moment.
What good does trying to understand and solve an imagined problem do? Does understanding bring peace? Does it bring joy?
Understanding is a scaffold we place around our thoughts. A way to hold them up and contain them. It’s limited to the thoughts in our own mind, as if we were walking through life with blinders on.
It provides the narrowest of views, allowing only a fragment of space in which to experience the world around us.
Like seeing a writing project as a massive problem and source of upheaval in my life.
But the world is so vast!
What if we have our view open wide and take everything in, as it is, even with its uncertainty?
Like turning a writing project into an opportunity to learn something new, even if I mess up, even if I don’t meet my deadline. In fact, since every moment is a choice and nothing is certain, why waste our time trying to make it so? Instead, what if we look at every moment as new and eternal? As a chance to open our heart and let the constant stream of energy coursing through the universe move through us and move us?
When we trap the energy in our body, we stop moving. We get stuck. Opening up and letting go of our thoughts and the scaffolding around them helps us get unstuck. It helps us move away from a life of fear and lack toward one of peace and abundance — all while embracing uncertainty. Embracing the energy that’s around us and inside us, no matter what it looks like, and allowing it to move us now, in this moment.
That’s the birthplace of joy, of spontaneity, of beginners’ mind. Of seeing the world as if for the first time.
With our eyes and our hearts wide open, rather than through a narrow, constructed, scaffolded view, supported by thoughts and beliefs that were born ages ago, but linger still in our hearts because we haven’t let go of them.
Which do we want to have in our life in this moment — in every moment? Suffering or peace? Fear or joy? It’s our choice.