When Falling, Dive

March 2015

Mark Matousek

Mark Matousek speaks on Let Go, Let God

Mark Matousek is the author of five books, including When You Are Falling, Dive. Together with author Eve Ensler, he coleads a movement to end violence against women and girls. He will lead a retreat at Awaken Whole Life Center at Unity Village, Missouri, in April. For more information, visit awakenwholelifecenter.com.

In my late 20s, I was your typical New York City alpha male. I never asked myself any philosophical questions. It took a fatal medical diagnosis for me to realize I did not have an inner life. 

Then, not knowing myself scared me. I didn’t want to die like a sleepwalker stumbling off a cliff. If my number was up, I wanted to at least use the time I had left to make a spiritual inquiry. 

I spent the next 10 years on the road as a kind of “dharma bum.” I lived in monasteries, met teachers, and asked myself deep questions. The irony was that the frightening diagnosis turned out to be a false alarm. Today I am grateful for it because it absolutely changed my life.

I learned that we are not our story, and as human beings we are capable of so much more than what we have believed. The crisis led me to my true work as a writer, and it has formed everything I do as a teacher of transformation and awakening. I have learned that, “When you tell the truth, your story changes. When your story changes, your life is transformed.”

It often takes a crisis or a loss to shake us up from our everyday stupor and pay attention to what is happening around us—to the mystery of life. In those moments, who we think we are gets taken away from us, and we have to discover this new creature emerging.

If “when we are falling, we dive,” we discover the difference between resistance and surrender. When we surrender to these forces of change that are larger than we are, we meet our challenges with more grace. Instead of looking at what was lost, we pay attention to what we are learning and what is being revealed.

We find out we are not our circumstances. We come to understand Spirit in us is so much greater than the story we have been living inside. When we start looking deeper, life becomes richer and more interesting. 

As humans, we are rarely honest about who we are. But when we start the powerful work of telling the whole truth, our lives can change radically. We start being honest about what we truly want and what we don’t want. And just that can be a big awakening.

I have discovered that the main thing separating people who thrive in adversity from those who don’t is the willingness to change and start anew. If we think we are going to be the same person after our lives are shaken up, we make our healing process so much harder. 

What helps is the willingness to reinvent ourselves, and this creativity requires us to move into an unknown space, which is frightening, but also, paradoxically brings us to life. There is fear, but also a deeper engagement with our own existence.

The mind may create fear of the future that makes it seem insurmountable. But the truth is when we ask ourselves how we are doing today, in this moment, the answer usually is that we are okay. We can handle our losses and transitions one day at a time. 

We can question who we used to be and wonder at the new creation that is emerging from the unknown. We let go of who we were and receive with awe and wonder the being that life is giving to us and the world.