Falling Back to Move Forward

To move forward with a great resolution we must first fall back.  Recently, I read this bit of New Year’s Resolution wisdom on Facebook (our endless forward-rushing stream of adages and quotes and clips and quips).   It struck me that there was deeper truth here, beneath the well-worn nuggets about regrouping for a great battle or backing up for a running start.

To move forward on a path, we must dare to go down inside ourselves.  The Buddhist path began with the Buddha sitting down under a tree, sensing the body on the earth, and the first step on the path that he discovered (or rediscovered) is intuiting the weight or  consequence of our actions, registering that what we do and think matters, even if no one is watching.  Moving forward on the path means going inward and down, daring to open to our deepest and most primal experience–opening not just to our childhood wounds and conditioned reactions but to our animal instincts. And we must open not just to our warm-blooded mother bear instincts, but also to the reptile brain and further back…to single-cell creature, membraned to know the difference between inside and outside, self and other.

We must see how we are triggered, how we are made.  Holidays have a way of showing this to us.  As Ram Dass famously said, if you think you are enlightened go spend time with family.  But there is a gift to be found in falling back.  As we learn to embrace the whole of ourselves with the kind of equanimity and compassion we wish to extend to our own children, accepting that certain experiences will trigger tears or rage or an impulse to grasp and not let go–well, this is the movement of awakening.

There is really not separating the heart and mind in the mind of awakening (in Buddhism the awakened heart/mind is called the “body mind).  And yet it is very helpful to extend a welcome downwards, backwards–to occasional little freak-outs and tears of frustration–not to identify but to manifest qualities of the heart including generosity and courage towards the parts of our brains that are less evolved, less sanctified, conscious let’s say in other ways.

I’ve been reading lately about opening to a broader view of consciousness, including an “Integrated Information Theory” of consciousness.  In other words, the more integrated the information, the synergy between the parts, the more complex the illuminated jewel of any particular brain/mind.  In other words, acceptance enriches and deepens our consciousness.  And acceptance can help ease the pain, tame the beast…liberate energy for that resolution.



11 thoughts on “Falling Back to Move Forward

  1. An old friend, who lost half of his face to cancer a year after getting sober, used quote Chuck C who asked “would you condemn your children to the gates of hell? No? Well why condemn yourself”. He also used to quip that if we wanted to know how well we were then ask our family!
    I know the enlightenment and freedom that have come about as a result of going back to move forward but I also know the time it took to recover or regain the sparkling middle place after such ventures and I’m very grateful for the support, compassion, empathy and love I received during the recovery/redirection.

    1. Thank you for the reminder about time, Fiona. I think we are all in recovery really, aren’t we? Partly due to your influence, I include a review of a recent doc. about Bill W. in the upcoming “Wisdom” issue. Always worth thinking about that story–those stories. It’s really the Buddha’s story, too…in a way. He gave up and then….

      1. Hi Tracy
        I’d like to think we’re all on a personal pilgrimage of some form or another. There are many routes and what strikes me is the deep similarities, the practices, the exercises, the disciplines each have in common.
        I find that when another layer of the onion unpeels that I need time afterwards to digest what I have learnt or uncovered-time to accept, time to recover and then move forward. I can’t just get up and run with it.
        Look forward to the next issue of Parabola and will spread the word!


  2. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who find New Year’s resolutions problematic, but you are the first addressing a deeper need for the acceptance that can act as the foundation for change, through personal transformation, that I think many resolutions are aimed at. Acceptance seems to be an under rated value in a culture which rewards aggressive forms of acting in the world–of doing.

    Thanks for your piece!

    Audrey Meyer

  3. Ooops-I came across this yesterday in some bits and bobs I received from the community in Australia which my great grand aunt joined at the tender age of 15 years.
    “Remember we are but travellers here. With this thought ever in our minds, how easy would the daily trials of life become to us”. Mary MacKillop November 1866


  4. Where have we been? How do we remember? Experience and the backwards part can often tell us. I think we are all travelers and some of us pilgrims. I think you raise a good question about what we do with our experience. I think I would cast my lot with William Blake, who cautioned against just accepting our experience and urged us to move our energies toward remaking the world on the model of a more desirable vision.
    Thanks Tracy for another great post. I shared this post with a colleague today who recounted a story of long-held grief during lunch today. When I handed the printout of your post to him, he commented about the topic and its timing. I just chuckled – this kind of thing happens to me all the time!

    1. Hi Barb, What’s interesting is that it is when I fall back, when I fully expect myself, my real weight on the earth, that’s brings a lightening so I can go in the direction of my highest vision.

      That’s interesting about your friend and the timing. Also, I think this season brings up a lot of old grief.

  5. Dear Tracy,

    Thank you very much for this shinning post. No doubt, the path to move forward emerges only in our hear and vision, when we, first, sit and contemplate on it. This contemplation leads to all sort of discoveries, in the inner world and also the outer.

    Kindest regards,


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