Dead End? Or Doorway? How To Start Over When Everything Falls Apart
You'd think by now we would get it: things are impermanent. But when impermanence gets personal it can be hard to accept. When everything falls apart it can feel like the end of the world. Circumstances in your life might suddenly cease to exist in the way you previously knew. What do you do when you arrive at a dead end? How do you start over?
How To Start Over When Everything Falls Apart
It’s hard to recognize yourself when everything in the outer environment suddenly changes. We define ourselves through our activities, relationships and conceptual framework. When these shift, if we are courageous enough to stay with that experience, the existence of our previously solid-seeming sense of self gets threatened. We might get a glimpse of something more uncomfortable, but more true: our vulnerable, uncertain and ever-shifting role in the larger scheme of things.
And what about this: what if there is no goal? What if the goal is to remain present through all the changes and simply observe it all. What if, as Chogyam Trungpa famously stated, the path is the goal?
Or, as one of my all-time favorite artists put it:
Make the best of every moment. We’re not evolving. We’re not going anywhere.
― David Bowie
Dead End? Or Doorway?
When the road suddenly stops, it forces you to lift your gaze and look at alternative routes. There are always choices to be made. You just have to recognize them and stop trying to drive. Let the road meet you half way.
Dead ends are actually doorways onto new vistas. Things have to fall apart for new things to arise — its the rhythm of nature. When you first plant new seeds, you get excited for the seeds to take root and grow. You eagerly await the flowers and fruit. But then once the fruit is eaten and the trees have lost their leaves and gone to seed, you are not as happy. This phase is less comfortable. But unless you go through this phase, you have no seeds to plant for the coming season.
And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
How To Start Over
Starting over entails a sense of reinvention. Reinventing yourself means breaking the mold, questioning your intentions, dwelling in the dark depths of uncertainty without hope of finding a quick answer. It means looking hard at the recurring themes: the destructive or painful habits that we’ve developed, whether consciously or not, that cause suffering. You know, the ones that keep returning to haunt you, that you think you've finally conquered, and that return again just to remind you that you are human and to bring you to your knees. Again. There is no system for this, no 10 step practice, no self-help Ted talk, no app that you can download.
It’s called life. You live it. And you learn.
You learn to stay in the vulnerable place called I don’t know. The way through is by remaining open and receptive to what arises, without trying to force things into your version of what is acceptable. One thing I know is that without the practices of yoga and meditation, this process would be a whole lot harder. I also know now that without art, it would be a whole lot less fun.
Time To Gather New Seeds
When everything falls apart, stop, go within and listen. Do your practices and await further instructions. When everything falls apart it is a clear sign that a new identity wants to emerge.
Look at what’s happening out there. The planet is imploding in many ways, and we’ve got to find ways to adapt and live more in alignment with what is true, even if it is uncomfortable. I think that collectively we want a new identity, and that starts with each one of us individually.
Evolution necessarily means letting go of aspects that no longer serve. For me this is less science than it is an art: I’m feeling into how things fit together after closing a chapter in my life, listening for what wants to arise. Sometimes we have to trust that life unfolds exactly as we need it to for our own happiness, even if we don’t trust the process. There’s your clue right there: trust the process.