A parachute is something we normally think of as a kind of refuge. A tool that if utilized in the right situation can mean the difference between life and death. It’s image is often conjured up metaphorically to represent a financial, emotional or practical lifeline. On a relative and practical level we may need to relate with some kind of a parachute from time to time. But many of our own personal parachutes function as defense mechanisms and can often hold us back from emotional and spiritual growth. Ultimately if we leave all of our parachutes unquestioned we may very well end up tangled in their chords.
The great Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once famously said; “The bad news is you are falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there is no ground.” Among Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings this quote has remained one of my favorites. Each time I come across this quote it stops my mind. It reflects back to me the futility of fixating onto my experience. It also reminds me to look inward and ask how is my mind.
When we look inward and ask how is my mind we are not looking for an answer. If we are seeking an answer then we have already fabricated. We have already prepared our parachute and are holding it in our hands, ready to deploy. The key to asking how is my mind is to completely be with our experience and let go, allowing our current fabrication to shatter. This can be a scary place to hang out. We are not yet completely comfortable with the new space we’ve ended up in but we also can’t relate in the same way to the previous fabrication that shattered.
Our path, be it spiritual or life in general is pervaded by various experiences of shattering and rebuilding both big and small. Sometimes we recognize and welcome them and sometimes we are pushed through kicking and screaming. Unfortunately it is difficult to progress and evolve without them. Who and what we think we are changes each and every moment no matter how hard we try to hold on. There truly is no ground.
Fabricating the ground itself allows for all other fabrications. Ultimately parachutes exist because we believe that there is a ground. But this is a delicate thing, we can’t just go around tearing apart every parachute we can get our hands on. This process must be a natural result of our path and introspection. As we investigate, let go and penetrate into our own and collective groundlessness we will naturally become aware of those patterns and habits that are not serving us any longer. We come to know on a very deep level that it is okay to let go of our old and worn out parachute(s).
Navigating this type of groundlessness can be both liberating and painful at times. Sometimes we wish there was a parachute to save us or we try to hastily recall one. It can feel like the rug just got pulled out from under us. At these times we have to trust the process, take refuge and let be with gentle awareness. We remain aware of what emotions and thought patterns come up throughout the process and let them rise and fall. There is also a risk, sometimes we fall flat on our face. But this is not failure.
Failure is to leave our mind and experience un-investigated, oblivious to the self-created constructs that bind us to who and what we think we are. I have to constantly remind myself that life is not a series of parachutes to be deployed. This takes vigilance as our habits are strong and they don’t shatter easily. When we rebuild it is difficult to resist the tendency to re-construct the aspects of yesterday’s self that comforted us. As a remedy we must employ gentle ruthlessness. Gentle because the base is compassion for ourselves and the world and ruthless because we wish to remove all veils that obscure us from abiding within groundless reality. This isn’t a process bound by time. No matter how long the process takes we are willing to show up with fierce and gentle determination peeling away one chord at a time. Share this Post
Featured photo by Michał Lech, Polen. Photo by Christoph, Germany.
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