Du Mußt dein Leben Ändern

by Rachael on April 28, 2011

… 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.

No, Mommy!

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?

"But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here."

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Liz @ The Six Year Itch April 28, 2011 at 10:42 AM

You always ask the most profound questions that hit me right in the gut. I’ve been thinking a lot about change and healing, relationships and work, success and failure. I like the idea of the clouds, but how do we get to a sunny day? I want answers and for me to stop thinking and do, but I definitely have intense moments of paralysis.
Liz @ The Six Year Itch recently posted… Duuude- I love Oprah


Rachael May 4, 2011 at 9:16 AM

I’m no Zen master (I have a hard enough time being a Zen beginner), but I think the basic idea is that the sunny day is always there. You know, behind all the clouds. Frustrating, isn’t it?


Seonaid April 28, 2011 at 10:44 AM

It came to me in meditation a few weeks ago: Enlightenment is easy. All you have to do is stop doing the things that keep you from it.

(Falls down laughing. Picks up another Pema Chodron book. Starts again.)
Seonaid recently posted… In The Garden


Rachael May 4, 2011 at 9:14 AM

My Big Realization (from November, still working on it now) is that I don’t need to be enlightened so much as I need to be just where I am. *sigh*


Melissa Fu April 29, 2011 at 1:56 AM

So thought-provoking. This post sent me digging into Mary Oliver poems, and I found one called ‘Stanley Kunitz’ – are you familiar with it? Then I found a podcast of her reading her poems along with an interview by Coleman Barks. Good stuff. http://podcast.lannan.org/2010/05/01/mary-oliver-with-coleman-barks-conversation-4-august-2001-video/


Rachael May 4, 2011 at 9:18 AM

I haven’t read Mary Oliver in a long time, but she’s been coming up a lot lately. I’ll have to find the time to watch this podcast.


Natalia April 29, 2011 at 5:07 PM

I have the same question all over again. I stopped meditating when I got pregant becuase I had an awful pain in my ribs that prevented me from sitting but also because I was constantly falling sleep. My son is now 19 months and I haven’t found the time to get back to my meditation routine. So, I’m not even getting closer to be more present and aware, rather the opposite. My mind swings up and down, from one thing to another.
Being aware of your anger, work on it, meditate, get back to your writing, medidate, enjoy with your son, look at the clouds and feel sometimes under the weather, sounds to me like a fantastic meditation practice.


Rachael May 4, 2011 at 9:22 AM

When the Critter was first born and I couldn’t really meditate at home, my teacher suggested that I simply do mindfulness practice while doing things like nursing or whatever. Or even just light a stick of incense to help focus the mind.


Michelle @ The Parent Vortex April 30, 2011 at 12:20 AM

This post has stuck with me for a couple of days. I’ve been winning the grumpy parent award around here and not feeling good about it. Sometimes the hardest thing is to sit with the discomfort of the moment and wait for the right moment, when the window of opportunity opens and the possibility of change and growth is there.

I notice this with Bea as I try to present phonics lessons or handwriting practice – if she is not ready or feeling connected or interested it’s like climbing uphill blindfolded, but if she’s interested, feeling connected with me and developmentally ready she can’t wait to practice. For myself, getting back to that place of connection and “flow” is the hardest part, as it often means letting go of some troubling thoughts and beliefs.
Michelle @ The Parent Vortex recently posted… Playful Self-Discipline- The Uncertainty Paradox


Rachael May 4, 2011 at 9:29 AM

Ever since I first read this poem (in high school?), it’s been the “You must change your life” that has haunted me. But now I’m finding it’s the preceding statement: “for here there is no place / that does not see you.” That noticing — it’s everywhere. If I’m willing to let go.


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