December 31, 2016

Dharmapala’s Guide to Survival when Life becomes a F*ckin Mess.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
~Pema Chodron


The last couple of weeks have been a f*cking roller coaster.

Three months ago I felt like I was back to the top of my game.

My small family had moved from California to a little East Coast town for my husband’s temporary job. My toddler was starting daycare for the first time since he was born 14 months ago and for the first time in the same period, I had time for myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a stay-at-home mom. I love having the possibility of watching my little boy grow and learn. I decided this is what I was going to do—and I can actually afford to do it. I know this is a luxury, but as so many other moms know, you can easily lose yourself in the mommy routine. One day you look at yourself in the mirror and somehow it’s been four days since your last shower and you are still wearing pajamas.

Yup, motherhood is a beautiful thing, but it is a lot of work.

As I was saying, for the first time in years I had time for myself. I started back on a daily yoga practice. I got back to writing with the elephant journal academy. My marriage was good—I mean, we would mostly see each other for a little bit on the weekends, because of his schedule, but that was awesome because we would have lunch, joke, play and didn’t have time for bullsh*t.

In the academy, we had small groups where we discussed once a week how we were advancing through the program. I would see that many of my peers were struggling to manage their time, trying to complete their commitment to the academy while juggling their jobs and lives.

But not me. I had it under control. I basically had the whole morning and part of the night to work on my writing—and it felt awesome.

Then my husband’s job ended, and we had to come back home.

We came back to no daycare, no yoga, and my husband falling into a post-job crisis riddled with anxiety.

We got into a huge fight.

I left.

It broke my heart. I might or might not have made the right decision, but no one is perfect. I was scared and confused. I left.

I drove down to my parent’s home in Mexico; they embraced me and told me everything would be okay. My parents are great—they really tried to make me feel better. I cried every day on their shoulders, trying to hide from my baby boy when I did it. He is such a happy little one, but he could tell something wasn’t right. He got sick, very sick.

Day after day things just started going down a spiral that seemed endless. My time got consumed, my head was blurry all the time and day after day I would miss my husband, I would miss my life with him, I missed my home. But I was f*ckin’ angry.

Then, I remembered the Dharmapala.

The Dharmapala is a type of wrathful god in Buddhism. The name means “Dharma protector or defender” in Sanskrit. In one of Waylon Lewis’s videos, I learned that according to myth, the Dharmapalas are angry creatures that would run into the Dharma—the principle of peace and mindfulness—and then all of their anger and misery would be transformed into the fierce protection of kindness.

They look pretty angry, and you can actually buy one and hang it on your wall for protection. They look like the kind of warrior that will definitely kick your a**.

Basically, they serve as reminders for becoming present. If we are not present, bad things will happen. This is why accidents happen. This is why we fall into a spiral of “bad luck”—and it won’t really stop until we learn to stop and just breathe.

It sounds so much easier than it really is.

Back at my parents’, I would try to meditate and become quiet in order to figure out what was going to happen with my life and the life of my family. But the noise would not go away. I was constantly thinking, anxious about everything, maybe the end of my marriage, my baby boy’s illness, Trump winning the election, Syria, climate change and even the sadness of the academy coming to an end.

I was barely surviving everything. Fighting with my whole soul to keep my head above water.

One night, talking to my best friend over the phone, I started just going off on everything, listing all the bad things that had just unleashed over me like an apocalyptic curse.

During those couple of weeks, I got into a fight with whomever crossed my path—my parents, my brother, and my best friend. I was becoming someone I could not recognize.

As I complained about my life, my best friend listened and when I finally stopped, she made it clear she wasn’t looking to pick up a fight with me—she was there for me. She said that the universe wasn’t really turning against me and that it was okay to bitch about life, but when I was done I should get it together and find a solution.

That night I took the most illuminating shower of my life. I went into it and consciously decided to listen to the water falling. Nothing else. Breathe and become present.

It wasn’t that long before I focused on my hair getting wet and then just the water running down my body and there was nothing else. My eyes closed and just the feeling of belonging to my body.

This body belongs to me. This heart belongs to me. This mind belongs to me. I can do whatever I decide with them. If I want to quit, run and hide, I can—and it’s okay. If I want to fight and keep going, I can—and it’s okay. 

When I came out of that shower, I called my husband and clearly told him what I needed him to do to make me feel comfortable to come home. I made it clear that I love him and that I wanted to fix whatever we needed to fix. I made it clear we were in this together and that he should stop pushing me away.

We talked liked we hadn’t talked in months. We connected. We became vulnerable together.

The next day I told my parents I was ready to go home. Luckily my dad is a pediatrician, so my son was getting better and after a couple more days, we were ready for the drive home.

When I crossed the door and saw my husband for the first time after the hell we’d both been through, we hugged and he told me that for the first time in months he felt present.

So we were both in this together. We were both present. The Dharmapala was in motion.

I’m not saying everything has been fixed and we will live happily ever after. I’m not saying that I am back at the top of my game and able to handle life without flinching. I’m not even saying I’m not afraid of what can happen, because anxiety and depression are hiding around the corner waiting for the right moment to creep into our lives again.

But I know about the existence of something that can hurt our lives. I know what these demons can do to my family and I am ready for it. We are ready for it. They might take good punches at us, but we will always fight back.

Oh! And I just ordered my very own Dharmapala as a reminder.





Author: Montse Leon

Image: Instagram @boogienseattle 

Editor: Callie Rushton

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