Some mornings very little happens down the River. You wait and watch……….The Terns are fishing on the other side, there is a solitary Pelican way off and the Osprey flies high in the other direction. This morning was one of those and it bought to mind two Buddhist sayings by Pema Chödrön, "Expect Nothing" and "Abandon Hope". I was reminded again just how much hope and expectation pervade our mind and perceptions of everyday life. When I first read these slogans many years ago I thought they sounded harsh, almost cruel. We are taught that hope is valuable, that when all else fails hope remains as an invisible safety net to ward off terror or insanity and comfort us with the possibility of a happy outcome. To abandon hope seemed extreme, a cruelty that would end in an abyss of depression and hopelessness. To expect nothing felt as though I were undermining my worth and short changing myself, self fulfilling evidence that perhaps I didn’t deserve good things.
Despite my initial aversion, Pema’s words caught my attention and made a deep mark in my mind as they stood in stark contrast to my assumptions. My curiosity was aroused and I sensed a depth or opening that lay beyond my understanding. As I have found with all of Pema’s writings, the exceptional wisdom of her words reveals itself slowly, over many years. Life experience chisels away at our mental constructs, sometimes cracks appear. We may manage to close them and maintain the facade but other times they remain as defiant reminders that all is not as it seems and not what we think. Occasionally life throws a grenade, the house shatters and our illusions of control and identity dissolve leaving us scrabbling in an unpredictable wasteland of our own fear with no escape. In these times our usual resources fail, there is no solution, nothing to grasp and we have no option but to fall into the raw reality of the present. It is here that unexpected things happen and Pema’s words are most powerful……….
In the midst of the anguish, the struggle ceases and the bars in our mind dissolve. A space is created and we experience the present without the usual constraint of hope and expectation. There is no outcome. It is what it is, and in that simple reality we are free. Once experienced, we are changed forever. We may rebuild the house, paint it blue, put up a new letterbox, close the windows or plaster the cracks but the strength of our convictions has been compromised and nothing will ever be that solid again.
In Pema Chödrön’s words;
“Giving up hope is encouragement to stick with yourself, not to run away, to return to the bare bones, no matter what’s going on. If we totally experience hopelessness, giving up all hope of alternatives to the present moment, we can have a joyful relationship with our lives, an honest, direct relationship that no longer ignores the reality of impermanence and death”.
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ” -Pema Chödrön
When I was walking back to the car, I spotted a vivid blue dragon fly and a solitary feather in the sand about to be caught by a wave. If I had been photographing Osprey as hoped and expected, I would not have seen these tiny treasures……………….