Pema Chodron states, “We spend all our energy and waste our lives trying to re-create these zones of safety, which are always falling apart. That’s the essence of samsara – the cycle of suffering that comes from continuing to seek happiness in all the wrong places.” That is precisely what I am doing and I often don’t understand why, if I stay vigilantly “in the zone,” I would ever fail even under circumstances beyond my control. I also struggle to see when failure in one area might lay the groundwork to succeed in alternate area. However until I understood why I cling so tightly to my intentions, it was hard for me to be compassionate to myself. I cling tightly because I’m trying to avoid pain, disappointment, and discomfort. I don’t want to be caught off guard. What Pema Chodron also says is that people challenge their comfort zones in different ways and while some people feel challenged when they leave the country, others feel challenged when they don’t get to sit in their favorite chair at their dining room table. She has so much compassion for people, including herself; she understands that “challenge” looks very different to each of us. So what’s the point?
The point is that I find it hard to follow the often prescribed “compassion for self” concept until I know what exactly I need compassion for. What Pema Chodron helped me understand is that much of my obsession with plans, order, and routine is often purely my desire to feel safe…which I deserve to feel, as we all do. Again, this vigilance often turns out well as this type of neurotic personality is rewarded in our society (think of all the apps that have been invented to help us plan, calendar, track, list, organize, predict est…). However I would also like to be able to recognize when my basic human desire to feel safe (being able to predict) gets in the way of me being able to see that disrupting, disturbing, or detouring from the original plan could be in my best interest.
In true Buddhist fashion, I challenge us all to just notice when a change in plan and/or a lack of predictability brings us anxiety, fear, or sadness.