… for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
— from “Archaic Torso of Apollo” by Rainer Maria Rilke
Last night I returned home from my writing workshop with Rilke on the mind. A colleague had brought in a strange, hilarious, and beautiful poem — and it had taken her twenty drafts to get there. What would it take for me to do that, to write twenty drafts of a poem before bringing it into class? And thus, in my mind, the command, in stern German, Du mußt dein Leben ändern, echoing, echoing, echoing.
I do keep trying to change my life. But life resists. Or so it seems.
Meanwhile, I haven’t been too happy with myself as a parent these days. I’ve been growling and even roaring at the poor little Critter far, far too often. (And goodness, don’t I know better? Aren’t I in fact the person who wrote an article on anger in awareness? The shame, the shame.) And then, sometime last week, I saw what’s really going on: that every time the Critter says “No!” it seems to me that life itself is saying “No!”
No, things are never going to change for you, says life (or so it seems). Never never never never never.
Of course, it is not life that is resisting, but I myself. And perhaps it is true. Perhaps life is (or I am?) never going to change, such that I will have the time I want to write — or whatever. Not, that is, if I continue to try to change things as I usually do, through lists and resolutions and other such attempts to control things.
In meditation, in fact, I’ve been creeping up to the edge of letting go of the illusion of control. What would that be like, to truly let myself walk on air, all the time?
From Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön:
We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves — the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds — never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye from being fully awake.
“Du mußt dein Leben ändern” and “There is no need for self-improvement”: I believe that both are true. How can that be so?