When Things Fall Apart

“It feels like the wheels are coming off the world!”“Everything is becoming unglued!” “It feels like my life is falling apart!”

I’ve heard these statements many times. I’ve made these statements myself many times!

Whether it is our personal world or the entire planet that seems to be falling apart, it is a very difficult experience for any of us.

Paradoxically, these times of upheaval can be extraordinary opportunities for personal and social transformation---if we engage them with great skill and wisdom.

The skill needed is to be willing and able to experience our inner and outer worlds with clear awareness and with an open heart--and without creating a story about what is occurring. Our “story” is typically one of blame or victimization. It’s often some form of “I told you so.” This story usually reinforces our sense of identity.

The wisdom needed is to recognize that our distress is caused not so much by change itself as it is the threat to our sense of identity that change can foster. What’s really falling apart is our internal belief structures. The deepest of these belief structures is our sense of self-identity.

Our sense of self is internal but it is also projected outward on to other persons, organizations and the world around us. When there are changes in these externalized projections of self then changes in the world can trigger the feeling that our identity is falling apart.

When relationships, careers or social structures end it can feel as if part of us has died. If a person identifies with his career and this identification supports his sense of worthiness and self-esteem, then when that career comes to an end, so may his feeling of value and self-esteem. He may then sink into a deep depression. When someone experiences a divorce she will often experience a sense of deep loneliness and sense of not being loveable or accepted by others. This too can result in feeling very depressed.

If we can consciously allow our self to experience these feelings without becoming lost in them, then a much deeper sense of self will eventually emerge--a self that is not defined by others or by the world. We then experience our essential nature more directly and we will function more freely in our everyday life.

This process essentially reverses the ego-construction process by which our true nature became identified with a limited sense of self defined by external factors. This occurs in our childhood. By the time we reach adulthood our essential nature is entrapped in several layers of identification that stifles our freedom, our creativity and our ability to love unconditionally.

These layers of identification are usually supported by external circumstances. We then live with the fear of losing these external supports. And when these supports break down we may suffer greatly.

If we bring awareness and nonresistance to our suffering then we begin the process of transformation. This can be very painful, but it is ultimately very freeing.

The key is to stay aware, to stay open to change, to be willing to experience discomfort and to trust the process as it unfolds.

Be the observer of it all. The observer is not touched by any change—it is our true self. As we come to identify with the witness self the breakdowns and the experiences of falling apart are seen as opportunities to free true nature from its egoic prison.