When I heard Pema Chodron speak these words “Fail. Fail again. Fail Better.” in her interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday a couple weeks ago I felt chills run through me. There was that deep knowing that she was right – this was a path to greater freedom – AND there was the horror in me at the idea of having a relationship with ‘failure’ as one I might want to really nurture.
She spoke about failure with such a light touch! In fact, she was referring to a graduation speech she’d given earlier this year where “Fail. Fail again. Fail better.” was the title. That’s not your usual focus when addressing a group of young people heading out into the world, but part of me knew this wise woman was right! Her powerful book When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times has for years been in my collection of favourite books.
As she continued, some of her words felt really familiar – you’ve probably heard me say similar things here, still, I took notes as I listened!
She said things like “The most important skill for going out into the world is the skill of knowing how to hold the pain of things happening that you don’t really want to be happening.”
She invited us to engage in “Training to be able to welcome or allow that kind of unwanted feeling – that pain, the rawness of vulnerability.”
She reminded us that when “something terrible is happening, it’s an opportunity. Something new is going to coming out of this … a whole new much more open place.”
Though we may like to pretend it isn’t so, as humans we all know that at some point our lives will fall apart.
Breathing in the unwanted is something I’m really familiar with. In fact over the last few eNews articles, including the one where I shared the Practical Steps in Coming Back Home to Ourselves, that’s been our focus.
But as I heard her speak that day there were some other words that felt deeply resonant “The richness of life includes the whole tapestry.”
That notion echoed these words from her book “The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
She also said “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh.”
As I’ve sat with all this, I’ve felt ‘thrown out of the nest’ and seen things in a completely new light. I’ve often called this a ‘panda moment’ – referring to this image on a magnet that’s been on my fridge for years.
Failure is NOT something I’ve had a comfortable relationship with! In fact I’ve recently recognized that (in an unconscious attempt to stave off the terrible consequences I feared would be the result) I’ve not just trying to avoid failure, I’ve been driven by the need to be perfect.
Instead of having it be there as a background to everything I do, I’m beginning to notice it – how cool! I’m breathing deeply, soothing the part of me that’s been tight and anxious – afraid of the other shoe dropping if I be any less vigilant and let down my guard.
A whole new vista of honouring my humanity and allowing the way I am now to be enough is opening up. And within that, the possibility for the part of the tapestry that includes joy, lightness, fun, relaxation and delight to be more present in my life. It feels like I’m just taking baby steps in discovering what this means, and in learning to take these new steps, I’m open to falling (or being less than perfect, or even failure) here too.
For me, this is what it looks like to Fail. Fail again. Fail better. What about you? What’s your relationship with failure been like? And what might it look like for you to learn to fail even better? Have you had any ‘panda moment’ experiences recently? What possibilities might open up for you in this? I’d love to hear from you!