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 ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.
The slogan "Be grateful to everyone" is about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected. Through doing that, we also make peace with people we dislike. More to the point, being around people we dislike is often a catalyst for making friends with ourselves.
This meditation is called nontheistic, which doesn't have anything to do with believing in God or not believing in God, but means that nobody but yourself can tell you what to accept and what to reject.
We can bring ourselves back to the spiritual path countless times every day simply by exercising our willingness to rest in the uncertainty of the present moment - over and over again.
What I have realized through practicing is that practice isn't about being the best horse or the good horse or the poor horse or the worst horse.
When we scratch the wound and give into our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal.
Yesterday I talked about cultivating precision, gentleness, and openness, and described how the meditation technique helps us to remember the qualities that we already possess.
The happiness we seek cannot be found through grasping, trying to hold on to things. It cannot be found through getting serious and uptight about wanting things to go in the direction we think will bring happiness. We are always taking hold of the wrong end of the stick. The point is that the happiness we seek is already here and it will be found through relaxation and letting go rather than through struggle.
The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought. that is what we're going to discover again and again and again. Nothing is what we thought.
This process of experiencing laziness directly and nonverbally is transformative. It unlocks a tremendous energy that is usually blocked by our habit of running away. This is because when we stop resisting laziness, our identity as the one who is lazy begins to fall apart completely. Without the blinders of ego, we connect with a fresh outlook, a greater vision. This is how laziness?or any other demon?introduces us to the compassionate life.
We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we're doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we're doing.
What is the lesson in this wind? What is the storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you face it with courage? With full honesty and ? lean into it.
When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don?t know what?s really going to happen. When we think something is going to give us misery, we don?t know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do what we think is going to help. But we don?t know. We never know if we?re going to fall flat or sit up tall. When there?s a big disappointment, we don?t know if that?s the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don?t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don?t know.
You are the sky. Everything else ? it?s just the weather.
The idea is to develop sympathy for your own confusion.
The Truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen.
Through formal meditation... we begin to get the hang of not indulging or repressing and of what it feels like to let the energy just be there. That is why it's so good to meditate every single day and continue to make friends with our hopes and fears again and again.