Nailed to the present moment


when things fall apart


This morning I started reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron again (thanks to my royal and regal friend Maureen Monte for the gift of this powerful book!). The first time I read it, I devoured it cover to cover. Some chapters I’ve come back to multiple times. The pages are highlighted, underlined, words in the margins. I love when I encounter a book that invites me in like this, that begs me to devour it, use it up.

Back for another helping.


The first chapter “Intimacy with Fear” got me thinking about how I confronted head-on my fear during my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I distinctly remember digging a deeper well with my anger. It was a sunny spring day, the kind that begs you to be happy and experience joy, where you find your feet moving along effortlessly, your mind wandering back or ahead to to be with people you love, to do things that inspire you. But I wasn’t feeling happy nor joyful and I wasn’t moving backward or forward in my mind. I was stuck in a dark place.  Right here, right now.

A dark hole, getting deeper. Falling. Through some sort of profound grace, I found myself embracing the possibility of getting lost in this hole. I looked into it with curiosity. The longer I looked, the more open I found myself. The closer I got to the depths of my anger, the softer it became.  

Pema speaks to how getting to such a place requires us to be ‘nailed to the present moment’. It’s only when we have nowhere to escape that we can truly confront the fear that so often runs us and rules us.


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About Vicki L Flaherty

I am most alive when I am creating, whether through my writing, gardening, photography, or my work. Running and yoga enrich my being. I am happiest when I’m with my husband Jim. Travel opens me to new possibilities and greater awareness. I find a special joy in helping people succeed. I’ve done something valuable when I’ve helped a colleague or friend see their brilliance and express their full potential. I have awesome opportunities to do this as an industrial/organizational psychologist through leadership, mentoring, coaching, career and other talent programs. As I've focused on living more mindfully, I've found special joy in expressing myself through poetry and photography, and in truly being in relationship with those I meet along my journey.

2 responses »

  1. Wow, Vicki. I may have given you the book (and I have a copy myself) and yet, your post is just what I needed to hear today. I discovered a new fear based on taking a beating at work two days ago. The beatings happen enough that I am no longer surprised. I might not like it, and it may not have been what I expected in the moment, but as it happened, I was like, “Well, I’ve been down this road before.” Stayed calm, replied with logic. It still stung, but I’m getting used to it. So it’s not the beatings I fear – though I hate them. The fear that popped to the forefront last night, after some 30 hours of processing the experience, was this: “What if I am a liability for my team?” And no matter the answer, the fact that it might be a possibility (and it is) is abhorrent to me. I’ve never, ever, been a liability. For others, the fear might be, “What if I’m let go tomorrow?” “What if XXX dies?” Neither of those send me into a fear abyss, but the liability does. Why? Because I “never thought that would happen to me.” If I am a liability, what do I do about it? I don’t have any of the answers, but your post encourages me to move closer to it, and perhaps that’s all I need to do in this moment. Thank you.

    • Good for you noticing the fear, trying to understand it, and moving closer to it. I’m not at all happy that you’re getting used to something that does not sound healthy.I wonder if that sense of being a liability comes from not being in integrity with yourself? Does the environment invite you to be out of alignment with your true self? That’s the only way I could see someone as brilliant and wise and talented as you being a ‘liability’ – when you are not able to show up truly as you. Lean in and let me know what you find…

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