What Do We Do When Things Fall Apart?
Initially, we may cry, feel devastated, be angry, be bewildered, laugh, or experience other emotions. With time, we have a second response. This is when our culture, religious beliefs, or training take over. In our second response, we may feel better, or worse.
In the Pause between our initial response and the second response is real power. One of the important things about emotions is that they are a clue to met or unmet needs. A positive emotion means that a need has been met; a negative emotion, a need has not been met. It is very valuable not to ignore or try to change our emotions, but instead to look deeper for our needs and find ways to meet them.
I would like to share a teaching that Rev. Richard Levy gave years ago. It came from his teaching for children, so it is quite simple. It involves some salt and some containers. If I take a large spoonful of salt and mix it in:
1. A large bowl of water - How will it taste? Not very salty.
2. A small bowl of water - More salty
3. A cup - Very salty.
The salt represents the times when things fall apart.
The purpose of Spiritual Teachings is not to eliminate the salt in our lives. The salt is going to come. Things are going to fall apart. The purpose of Spiritual Teachings is to make us larger vessels - to make us from a cup into a large bowl.
There are other things that can also do this. Education, Music, Inspiring People, Travel, and Nature are some that come to mind. As Richard said, we can often feel this expansion happening. Sometimes there are people or subjects that have the opposite effect. We become smaller, and we can feel that happening too. At the time, Richard said that he could feel like a large vessel - very spiritual and one of his relatives talking about politics could rapidly cause him to go from a large bowl to a smaller one, to a cup, and he would quickly become a ... shot glass.
We can avoid people and subjects like this. And if we don't we can excuse ourselves to go to the restroom.
Our second response when things fall apart can be to become bigger vessels.
The Buddha said, "It is not how often we forget, it is how quickly we remember."
What do we do when do when things fall apart? The very question says that they were put together in the first place. Religious teachings tell us that things go together and come apart as natural flow:
To everything there is a time and a purpose, the Tao, Shiva (the creator/destroyer), Buddha - attachment, to those to whom much is given, of much is asked.
One problem is that we tend to pay attention to things going together, and see that as a good thing and sometimes as a result of our spiritual success. What we don't anticipate is that they will also come apart. And even more seldom, see that as a result of our spiritual progress.
Last night I tried to write this talk on my laptop while watching the Olympics and got very little done. This morning I meditated and received the inspiration that I needed for writing the talk. When I sat down at my laptop, it would not boot up. I didn't panic because I realized that this was an example of things falling apart: a test to see if I can practice what I preach. In the Pause, as I waited and prayed for the computer to boot up, I thought of the things that I could do if the computer did not work. I also smiled. GOD has a great sense of humor.
When something which has worked for a long time, suddenly stops working, we can feel lost, abandoned, surrounded by darkness, and unsure what to do. This can even be the Dark Night of the Soul.
Taking action will promote recovery much faster than just waiting for the passage of time.
So when things fall apart, feel the emotions that come up and then PAUSE. The salt has arrived! Then decide if you are going to become a shot glass, or a large bowl.
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