Art by Carlín Díaz
“The only time we ever know what’s really going on is when the rug’s been pulled out and we can’t find anywhere to land. We use these situations either to wake ourselves up or to put ourselves to sleep. Right now — in the very instant of groundlessness — is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness.” — Pema Chödrön
Zen Buddhist teacher Roshi Joan Halifax has a beautiful line in this meditation on encountering grief. I invite you to take a moment to savor it:
“Whatever you’re feeling in your heart, [notice] how the body feels as you consider the possibility that grief can be a profoundly humanizing experience and bring greater depth into our lives.”
This week’s On Being conversation offers some starting points for working through this possibility. Krista spoke with musician/artist Devendra Banhart about Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart in a lively spiritual book club of sorts, recorded from their respective homes. The book has been a balm to them and countless others who have leaned on Chödrön’s small work of great beauty during difficult times. Banhart has described his copy as a literary version of an “in case of emergency break glass” box.
At the heart of the book is the simple idea that things fall apart, which Chödrön, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, frames as both our reality and a path toward healing. “We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart,” she writes. “Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
This week, I’m finding solace in seeing even moments of frustration and futility as the seeds of healing — opportunities to understand my own humanity, as Halifax’s meditation also suggests. And I’m savoring moments of joy and levity, which feel more fleeting and precious than before. All things, good and terrible, fall apart. And, as Banhart says, “This time will pass ... This thing we’re going through, this pandemic, it will fall apart.”
In the meantime, we always have the option to keep our eyes open and aware — to all that hurts, to all that is here, all that is now.
Editor, The On Being Project
P.S. — We’re continuing some of this week’s book club discussion across our social channels. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And you’re always welcome to share your own reflections with me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New here? Subscribe to The Pause.
This Week at The On Being Project
Our Latest Episode
On Being with Krista Tippett
‘When Things Fall Apart’
In this “spiritual book club,” Krista and musician/artist Devendra Banhart read from and reflect on Pema Chödrön’s small book of great beauty.
Recommended Listening and Reading
Read| A Conversation with Krista Tippett | On Air Fest
Last week, we aired Krista’s interview with poet Ocean Vuong, which was recorded at On Air Fest in March, right before the wave of shelter-in-place mandates took place. She reflects with On Air Fest producer Jemma Brown about the conversation and all that has happened since.
Read | “The Paradox at the Heart of Being Human” by Courtney E. Martin
The writer turns to Pema Chödrön’s wisdom on seeking resolution.
Read | “Devendra Banhart’s 10 Favorite Books” | Vulture
This article is why we initially thought to reach out to Devendra Banhart for this week’s episode.
Listen | “Small Truths and Other Surprises” with Jericho Brown
This week, Jericho Brown won a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry collection The Tradition, which he reads from in his 2019 conversation with Krista.
Poetry Unbound and Friends
Our poetry series continues on Instagram this week, with contributions from Omid Safi, Lulu Miller, David Whyte, Jerry Colonna, Courtney Martin, Parker Palmer, Major Jackson, and Sharon Salzberg.
Watch the entire series for readings and reflections from poets, former On Being guests, and friends of the show.
This Week in Haiku
Follow John Paul Lederach’s “unfolding poem” for the moment we’re in.
What We’re Loving: Devendra Banhart Edition
We asked our team to share some of their favorite Devendra songs.
“The Ballad of Keenan Milton,” recommended by Eddie Gonzalez, associate director of Civil Conversations and Social Healing
“[This is] the first song that came to mind for me. It’s an instrumental song, and it’s just pensive, searching, and lovingly simple. The beginning has a siren in the background, a sound that’s become all too familiar these past couple of months here in Queens, and these days the song has felt for me like it’s holding difficulty and grief alongside expansiveness and beauty. Also, it’s a tender homage to a late skateboarder, and Devendra has talked about skateboarding being a way that he found his friends in the U.S. when he moved here and felt like an outsider.”
“Fig in Leather,” recommended by Lilian Vo, associate art director
“I got to see Devendra [perform] live with a dear friend who introduced me to his music. His performance of this song is one of my favorite memories. The fun and funky vibes of the song allowed me to see another side of my friend.”