When things fall apart is a book title from Buddhist monk Pema Chodron. I started reading it when I separated from my husband.
My whole world had fallen apart and I was looking for something to cling to.
There was nothing.
I was just falling.
The book is a a pearl farm of wisdom but the central premise is that in order to deal with our suffering we have to face up to it. Running away only makes it stronger. The way to free ourselves from suffering is to fully experience our suffering.
“Maybe the only enemy is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. But what we find as practitioners is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. If we run a hundred miles to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem for us when we arrive. It just keeps returning with new names, forms and manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating to ourselves.”- Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
What do you do when things are unbearable?
What if there is no way out?
What if you just have to face it?
For me, denial worked really well for a while. It helped me to manage the intensity of the shock I was feeling that my world had been torn apart.
I kept myself busy.
I ate a lot. Have you ever eaten so many salt and vinegar chips that your tongue hurts? My tongue hurt but it was better than the hurt of my new reality.
I slept a lot and found peace in my dreams. Some mornings I would wake and for a moment I was oblivious to the pain and suffering. Then the tsunami of pain would hit but I never actually drowned in it.
When you lose everything precious to you, there’s really only one thing left. Yourself.
I immersed myself in yoga. I prescribed myself sequences to soothe a broken heart, to shift stagnant energy and to release fear.
I meditated a lot. But not all rigid and disciplined. Usually just lying on the floor and taking a peek inside my turbulent mind. When it got too much I would stop. But I made an effort to peek inside every day. And that’s what made the difference.
I couldn’t control the chaos that surrounded the destruction of my life, but I could control how I reacted. And for someone who likes to be in control, this was comforting.
The only way out is in
When life becomes unbearable we can seek an instant fix to numb ourselves or we can face up to our suffering. And when we face up to ourselves, when we give presence to our suffering we can reduce the tight grip that suffering has over us.
I’ve been through the dark night of the soul. I experienced death, divorce and serious illness in the one year. There were times when pain was my constant companion, when the gravity of my situation seemed impossible, but I didn’t run and hide.
Because there is nowhere to go.
The only way out is in.
I sat there on my floor, the carpet wet from tears and I let wave after wave of suffering smash into me.
And I thought it would never stop.
But it did. I survived.
I was able to pick up the broken pieces from the floor and yoga was the container that held me together during that time.
Yoga held me together when things fell apart
And it’s not just me. Everyone who comes to our Brisbane Yoga studio is suffering to some degree. Some are in denial but others have had everything they know and love stripped from them until all they have left is themselves.
And all they can do is take one breath at a time. These people have been using yoga as a safe container to fall apart, pick up the pieces of their former life and start putting things back together. They have found hope among despair, light in the darkness, freedom from suffering and joy amidst the grief.
These people find solace in someone else understanding their suffering.
The one common denominator is that these people practice yoga week in, week out.
They show up when they feel like crap.
They cry in Savasana and some days it hurts to breathe. But they do it.
Because it’s all they have.
It’s something to hold onto when things fall apart.
All too often yoga is sold as a physical pursuit. Get flexible, lose weight, look good in a bikini, stand on your head and take a selfie.
And that’s cool. But it’s kind of like buying a tray of delicious summer mangoes. They look and smell sensational. But if you just focus on the skin, you never get to taste the sweet nectar inside. The skin just serves a purpose, to hold and contain the insides.
Yoga is a way of opening, stretching and strengthening your container so that you can experience your own nectar.
Yoga increases our capacity to deal with life.
It’s a way of connecting to ourselves and finding strength, courage and wisdom within.
If you’re still reading there’s a good chance that things are falling apart. I can offer you my understanding, support, experience and a safe container for things to fall apart and to come back together again.
Let me assure you that you can ease your suffering and yoga is one of the best tools to face up to ourselves and feel what’s going on. And that facing up and feeling will ease our pain.
Below are real stories of transformation. Not all of these people can stand on their heads but they can stand themselves. This is the nectar of yoga.
Please leave your story in the comments below as it may help others who are suffering and don’t think that yoga can help.
Main image credit: Leonie Orton