What do I mean by small denials and is it really necessary? A few examples: getting out of the shower when I’m still a little chilly. Pausing for three full breaths before looking at the most recent text message. Choosing a different reaction to the trigger that always produces sarcasm, impatience, or anger. Responding kindly to my husband when my inclination is exasperation. Cleaning the bathroom with full presence and joy.
When I die to habits or deny simple cravings, just a few times a day, I rehearse for the most difficult challenges in life, the ultimate bad news, my own death, and that of others.
As a Catholic, I have heard this concept my entire life. My mother would reference it when we needed to prune a shrub. We see symbols of this truth in nature, the workplace and in families. The frigid winter gives birth to brilliant colors and song birds. A colleague resists exerting justifiable power and instead, lifts you up. The parent chooses to avoid the “eternal dance” with their adult child that perpetuates a destructive relationship. Dying to my cravings for power – – – actually empowers me. In my quest for joy, I must die to old habits, use the Lenten and Buddhist discipline of small denials, of dying, every minute of my life. (Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, Catholic teaching).
When we finally let go, our daughter flourished. Whether it was worrying about her academic progress, her career, or her social life. When the pressure lifted, we all thrived. The space was opened for her to take action. How simple, yet incredibly painful, to let go.
If you have reached mid-life and you lie awake at night, you might know the puddle. It forms at the life-saving avenue to breath, just below the source of our speech, the vehicle for sharing truth. The changes that come with mid-life are humbling. In those humble moments, we can discover brilliant creativity and joy. Don’t miss it.