The Perfect Teachers — Fear and Trembling

From Pema Chodron in When Things Fall Apart:

“[F]eelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back.  They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away.  They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck.  This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

Chodron goes on to explain that when (not “if”) we get to that place “where you have no choice except to embrace what’s happening or push it away” we are most genuinely in the moment, yet the moment is not so important — at least not as important as what follows, the “what next”, or as my friend Jim Mulford used to say, the “so what.”   In those “what’s next” or “so what” moments do we awaken to the reality that “it takes death for there to be birth [or do] we just fight against the fear of death?”

Then comes the hard part:

“Reaching our limit is not some kind of punishment.  It’s actually a sign of health that, when we meet the place where we are about to die, we feel fear and trembling.  A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.  Things like disappointment and anxiety are messengers telling us that we’re about to go into unknown territory.”

Which of course sounds a lot like Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2:12: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and act according to his good purpose.”

The perfect teachers — fear and trembling!

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