Start where you are. This is very important. Meditation practice is not about later, when you get it all together and you’re this person you really respect. You may be the most violent person in the world—that’s a fine place to start. That’s a very rich place to start—juicy, smelly. You might be the most depressed person in the world, the most addicted person in the world, the most jealous person in the world. You might think that there are no others on the planet who hate themselves as much as you do. All of that is a good place to start.  ~ Pema Chödrön


October 16, 2018


Last week, I was in the muck. The smelly, gooey kind that sticks to your clothes. A smell that doesn’t come out in the wash. What brought it on? I don’t know. Does it matter? These states come and go. One day, we’re walking high on the tightrope, the next we’ve fallen into the earth digesting itself.

Naturally, being a good yogi, I tried to get right out of the muck. Oh, how attached we can be to our shiny, put together, presentable selves. I didn’t want the Gods and Goddesses seeing me like this. What would they think? Their hard practicing yogi, a model of grace, light, and openness, floundering in the mud? I must get out, I thought. I must get out now.

Of course, the more I struggled against the struggle, the less likely I was to find anything remotely liberating in the experience. Finally, my mind was flooded with negatives. “This person hasn’t responded to my text,” became, “They aren’t responding because they know what a bad person I really am.” Stuff like that. You know the kind.

Finally, all this swirl of negativity got so strong, I had no choice but to surrender. “Okay,” I said, “you’ve got me.” I let the voices get big. Bigger. So huge they blocked out the sun. I let myself enter this swamp of low life. I felt bad. Even though I couldn’t pinpoint why I felt shitty. I let myself swim around there. Finally.

Then a surprising thing happened. I didn’t die. It always surprises me when I don’t die at times like these. It’s like the urge to vomit. We fight and fight and fight against our own body’s urge to purify itself. The same is true here. When the purge means going through a black hole, all systems rebut. “Absolutely not!” they say. They kick up their heels, use all their might. “This is the fight I’ve been preparing for all my life,” they yell as muscles pop and bulge and sweat begins to pour.

Until we’re exhausted. And the fight has gone out of us. Surrender. To what is. And trust. Trust this awful, and awe-inspiring process of creation. As we expand and contract, we dance with the Universe. We are co-creators of this self as she is breathed and thrust and drowned and resurrected back by the Self.

Trust does not naturally arise in the midst of torment but shines bright after the torment has ended, and hasn’t killed us.

“Hey,” I remember. “I feel much more alive now that I’m on the other side. Maybe I should trust this thing in the future.”

When we lean into our pain, instead of fight it tooth and nail, something magical, something alchemical takes place. The more darkness we can hold, the more light we can hold as well. Likewise, when we get penetrated by enormous light, chances are things residing deep, crouched in the corners and hugging the walls, are gonna get touched, lit up, exposed, and ultimately, offered the chance to come out into the light. As we get to know all our itchy, stinky, gooey, unloved and unlovable refuse, we expand our capacity to offer ourselves compassion.  When we go through this process and it doesn’t kill us, we are bigger. Greater. We have strengthened our container, our capacity to be present with whatever is, in us, in another, in this world. This is a practice for these challenging times, wouldn’t you say?