The inscription, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chödrön.
I recently discovered that Pema Chödrön's book When Things Fall Apart is available in a 20th edition.
That caught my attention.
A friend gave it to me the week my son passed unexpectedly. She said, “This book might help you.”
On the day we memorialized my son, I had a profound experience. That morning I read the part in the book where Pema says, “Life is a good teacher and good friend” (p. 11). When I read those words, I was so distraught, I raised my arm to throw the book.
But I didn’t.
I kept reading a few more sentences where Pema encourages us to stay with our broken heart.
After the ceremony, we gathered in my sister’s home for lunch. I remember sitting in a chair in the far corner of her home, upstairs, listening to family and friends talking downstairs. I felt sad, bitter, and angry, and my heart hardening.
Miraculously, I remembered Pema’s words to stay with my broken heart. I stayed with my hurt. I sat still and let myself feel. I sobbed and softened. Later I stood up and went downstairs where I noticed that every person at the lunch had heartbreak.
And later as I studied more, I saw that every being has heartbreak.
It was that connection on that day that opened the door of my heart and mind enough to be with my hurt, and to use what I experience to connect with all others. I began my Tonglen practice.
August marks ten years since that day and I am awed at the possibility of understanding life as a good teacher and good friend. I would never have imagined that my loss could partner, unfold, clarify, and become a transformed karmic seed. I am utterly awed.
So, when I opened the newly printed When Things Fall Apart and saw the inscription quote Pema chose, I smiled until a tear dropped. It begins, “Life is a good teacher and good friend....”
I purchased two copies. One to take into my heart, the other to send or give to another. Sort of like Tonglen.
I first shared this story with Margie Rodgers who I met at Omega when I wandered into the cafe to explore the offerings of Pema's Foundation. Margie is vice-president of Pema's Foundation.
Today is July 7, 2016. Pema's 80th birthday is soon (July 14, 2016) and she asks us to join her in a day of practice. In a few hours, I'll participate in a live call with her and others to ask questions as part of an intensive study and contemplation of Tokme Zongpo’s Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva. How fortunate I am.