“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” ~Pema Chodron
It’s tempting. Staying in the nest means life feels safe and we are protected. If we get thrown out of the nest we either stretch our new wings and fly or plummet to the ground.
Flight poses new challenges. How do we embrace spaciousness when we desire solidity? How do we stay aloft and open?
A friend of mine recently showed me a nest of robin’s eggs. Beautiful, blue like the sky, and full of bright possibility, we admired the eggs. Sadly, none of the chicks survived.
Life can be harsh and unpredictable for little chicks and humans. How do we recover when we are thrown out of the nest? How do we awaken?
In her book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron talks about there being no safety net, only spaciousness. At first this concept frightened me. I didn’t understand what she was talking about.
Spaciousness is the wide blue sky with no clouds. Spaciousness is a trip to a far away galaxy. In order to fly we must embrace the openness without clinging to the nest.
Spaciousness in common vernacular can mean “going with the flow.” If we don’t cling or attach to results but stay in the moment we can experience spaciousness. Life will feel less constricted and less anxious.
The world appears to be concrete, but it’s not solid. As many people around the world know from tragic circumstances, your home can disappear in a split second. Your life can change in an instant.
I can have my day timer filled with appointments and meetings, but what if I get a flat tire or get sick? It’s a scramble to reschedule. These are only minor events that can cause stress.
There are so many distractions in our daily lives, as well—phone calls, emails, TV, kids fighting. It’s a challenge to stay calm. No wonder we’d prefer to just stay in our warm beds in the morning!
If I take time to breathe, to become aware, to experience spaciousness or flow, then disruptions in my life do not feel so overwhelming. Once I understood that spaciousness could give me a sense of freedom, I was no longer frightened. I was relieved.
Waking up in the morning and taking off in a flurry of activity after a cup of coffee is not equivalent to being completely awake. It takes practice to calm down, slow down, and become more aware. I’ve been taught that success comes through small actions repeated many times.
As creatures of habit, we all tend to move through the day on automatic, sticking to a schedule and a plan. Have you ever arrived at work without quite knowing how you got there? Have you eaten your lunch at your desk and not even tasted it?
What kinds of things can you practice to become more fully alive, more open, and calmer?
1. Sit in stillness.
Stop moving, stop doing, stop planning and living in the future. You can sit on a cushion or sit in a chair.
2. Go outside and feel the wind on your face, smell the fresh air, and connect with nature.
If it’s possible, lie in the grass, stare at the sky, and listen to the birds. Feel your heart open.
3. Connect with another person, smile, and make eye contact.
If you observe yourself becoming judgmental or critical, try to see that person as another human being struggling to be happy, just like you.
4. If you have pets, connect with them through touch.
Feel their affection. We can communicate with them and learn from them about how to stay in the moment.
5. Tune in to your body, let it move, and feed it well.
Practice awareness of your senses. Feel what you are touching, listen to the sounds around you, and smell what’s cooking.
6. Breathe deeply.
Count your breaths to twenty-one when you are driving in your car. Calm down and stay present. Repeat.
7. Write, draw, paint, journal, or listen to music.
Creating something beautiful or meaningful will help you focus and allow flow.
8. Take pictures with your phone or camera.
I have learned that if I see a shot and run for the camera that frequently the moment will have disappeared. Sometimes I am lucky enough to capture a magical moment in time.
9. Give love to yourself and others.
As you become aware of the negative self-talk in your mind, you can work towards becoming gentle with yourself. Practicing loving-kindness towards others will help you turn the love inward as well. Treat your family and friends with care and tenderness. Be considerate of their needs and listen closely to what they have to say.
10. Accept things the way they are.
It will give you a sense of freedom. Resistance causes suffering.
You have to be willing to change before you can take action. If you are willing to fly out of the nest rather than be thrown out, you will be embracing spaciousness. You will experience freedom.
Every moment is new. I used to believe that if there was no ground then there was nothing to hold on to. Because I realize now that I am interconnected with the entire universe, I believe I am everything and everything is me.
I have found a sense of release that I never imagined possible when I have stopped fighting the way things are. Sometimes that amazing feeling disappears in the next moment. By its very nature, this learning process must be unremitting.
I must continually return to the nest to regroup before leaving again. As much as I might desire safety, I am reminded over and over again that it does not exist. I acknowledge this without fear.
Because safety doesn’t exist, it’s even more important to stay present and awake. If I don’t stay awake, I don’t appreciate my precious human life. If I am not fully alive, I am wasting time.
There is no time to waste!