When groundlessness is not too hard

It isn’t the things that happen to us in our lives that cause us to suffer, it’s how we relate to the things that happen to us that causes us to suffer. Pema Chodron



I like to think about, and talk about groundlessness. Groundlessness is a description of the way things are, flexible and hard to define, and it’s also a description of the experience of the way things are.

Trungpa Rinpoche is famous for his use of the term, and the sense I usually get when reading it is one of fear, that losing your ground, however it happens, is usually a fear inducing thing, even if recognizing the groundlessness can be very valuable, even a transformation of sorts. As a matter of fact, I focus, much of the time, on this side of the teachings: fear, pain, chaos, confusion, hypocrisy. This could be a problem. It’s not that this style or kind of focus is totally wrong, but it leaves things out, namely the positive.

And for good reason! Being positive, putting a positive spin on things, forcing gratitude, all tend to be problematic. They can be so fake. A lot of people feel the need to become happy, not as some kind of quest of self knowledge or journey, but because it’s a competitive thing society pressures us to do. Being happy is, in a way, the new career. If you’re really happy, you’re winning this game, you’re beating the other game players. That’s not very introspective, and it’s not very gentle. I’ve said it many times on Twitter, but I’ll say it again: gentleness and genuineness are the two disciplines of a warrior. These things are key.

Then again, the positive side of the teachings has its place. Today, I thought my wife and I were having guests come over for brunch. We don’t usually. So I got up early, started some bread dough, made a stir fry, dusted, vacuumed, borrowed some extra chairs, and when it was time for the guests to show up, for the first time, they didn’t really know the way, I went out to the parking lot to meet them. I stood by the road and waited as cars drove by, and swerved around the array of terrific potholes. I kept waiting, walked about, then went inside. I wondered if they’d just decided not to come, and checked my Facebook page. I had the wrong date. It was next Saturday. There was this moment where I told my wife, the table was set, the house clean, both of us ready to meet company, and we laughed about it. So, we had a clean house, and some good food. Groundlessness doesn’t have to be awful. We sat down, and had a fancy brunch, just the two of us.

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