American Buddhist Nun, Author and Teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist Lineage
Pema Chödrön, born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown
American Buddhist Nun, Author and Teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist Lineage
The honesty of precision and the goodheartedness of gentleness are qualities of making friends with yourself... As you work with being really faithful to the technique and being as precise as you can and simultaneously as kind as you can, the ability to let go seems to happen to you. The discovery of your ability to let go spontaneously arises; you don?t force it. You shouldn?t be forcing accuracy or gentleness either, but while you couldmake a project out of accuracy, you could make a project out of gentleness, it?s hard to make a project out of letting go.
The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness, and shut-downness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with gentleness. Instead, there?s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, then we would be happy.
This is what we are here to see for ourselves. Both the brilliance and the suffering are here all the time; they interpenetrate each other. For a fully enlightened being, the difference between what is neurosis and what is wisdom is very hard to perceive, because somehow the energy underlying both of them is the same. The basic creative energy of life... bubbles up and courses through all of existence. It can be experienced as open, free, unburdened, full of possibility, energizing. Or this very same energy can be experienced as petty, narrow, stuck, caught... The basic point of it all is just to learn to be extremely honest and also wholehearted about what exists in your mind ? thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, the whole thing that adds up to what we call ?me? or ?I.? Nobody else can really begin to sort out for you what to accept and what to reject in terms of what wakes you up and what makes you fall asleep. No one else can really sort out for you what to accept ? what opens up your world ? and what to reject ? what seems to keep you going round and round in some kind of repetitive misery? This is the process of making friends with ourselves and with our world. It involves not just the parts we like, but the whole picture, because it all has a lot to teach us.
We see how beautiful and wonderful and amazing things are, and we see how caught up we are. It isn?t that one is the bad part and one is the good part, but that it?s a kind of interesting, smelly, rich, fertile mess of stuff. When it?s all mixed up together, it?s us: humanness.
Being fully present isn?t something that happens once and then you have achieved it; it?s being awake to the ebb and flow and movement and creation of life, being alive to the process of life itself. That also has its softness. If there were a goal that you were supposed to achieve, such as ?no thoughts,? that wouldn?t be very soft. You?d have to struggle a lot to get rid of all those thoughts, and you probably couldn?t do it anyway. The fact that there is no goal also adds to the softness.
If we see our so-called limitations with clarity, precision, gentleness, goodheartedness, and kindness and, having seen them fully, then let go, open further, we begin to find that our world is more vast and more refreshing and fascinating than we had realized before. In other words, the key to feeling more whole and less shut off and shut down is to be able to see clearly who we are and what we?re doing.
Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It?s about seeing how we react to all these things. It?s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It?s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness? The problem is that the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself. The other problem is that our hangups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth. Our neurosis and our wisdom are made out of the same material. If you throw out your neurosis, you also throw out your wisdom.
Precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go ... are not something that we have to gain, but something that we could bring out, cultivate, rediscover in ourselves.
The middle way is wide open, but it's tough going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or the left. We don't want to sit and feel what we feel. We don't want to go through the detox. Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in everyone without exception, including you and me.
The whole process of meditation is one of creating that good ground, that cradle of loving-kindness where we actually are nurtured. What's being nurtured is our confidence in our own wisdom, our own health, and our own courage, our own good heartedness. We develop some sense that the way we are the kind of personality that we have and the way we express life - is good, and that by being who we are completely and by totally accepting that and having respect for ourselves, we are standing on the ground of warriorship.
Times are difficult globally; awakening is no longer a luxury or an ideal. It's becoming critical. We don't need to add more depression, more discouragement, or more anger to what's already here. It's becoming essential that we learn how to relate sanely with difficult times. The earth seems to be beseeching us to connect with joy and discover our innermost essence. This is the best way that we can benefit others.
We cannot be present and run our story-line at the same time.
What you do for yourself, any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty and clear seeing toward yourself, will affect how you experience your world. In fact, it will transform how you experience the world. What you do for yourself, you?re doing for others, and what you do for others, you?re doing for yourself.
When you are working, it's so easy to become consumed, particularly by computers. They have a way of hypnotizing you, but you could have a timer on your computer that reminds you to create a gap. No matter how engrossing your work is, no matter how much it is sweeping you up, just keep pausing, keep allowing for a gap. When you get hooked by your habit patterns, don't see it as a big problem; allow for a gap.
You're the only one who knows when you're using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you're opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is - working with it rather than struggling against it. You're the only one who knows.
The most heartbreaking thing of all is how we cheat ourselves of the present moment.
There are four maras... The descriptions of these four maras show us four ways in which we, just like the buddha, are seemingly attacked: The first mara is called devaputra mara. It has to do with seeking pleasure. The second one called skandha mara, has to do with how we always try to re-create ourselves, try to get some ground back, try to be who we think we are. The third mara is called klesha mara. It has to do with how we use our emotions to keep ourselves dumb or asleep. The fourth one, yama mara, has to do with the fear of death.
True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.
We don?t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people?s hearts.
When one of the emperors of China asked Bodhidharma (the Zen master who brought Zen from India to China) what enlightenment was, his answer was, Lots of space, nothing holy. Meditation is nothing holy. Therefore there?s nothing that you think or feel that somehow gets put in the category of sin. There?s nothing that you can think or feel that gets put in the category of bad. There?s nothing that you can think or feel that gets put in the category of wrong. It?s all good juicy stuff?the manure of waking up, the manure of achieving enlightenment, the art of living in the present moment.
When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too.
The basic creative energy of life - life force - bubbles up and courses through all of existence.
The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving.
There are many changes in the weather of a day.
Trying to run away is never the answer to being a fully human. Running away from the immediacy of our experience is like preferring death to life.