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
Have you ever been caught in the heavy-duty scenario of feeling defeated and hurt, and then somehow, for no particular reason, you just drop it? It just goes, and you wonder why you made much ado about nothing.? What was that all about? I?d like to encourage us all to lighten up, to practice with a lot of gentleness. This compassion, this clarity, this openness are like something we have forgotten. Sitting here being gentle with ourselves, we?re rediscovering something. It?s like a mother reuniting with her child; having been lost to each other for a long, long time, they reunite. The way to reunite with bodhichitta (awakened heart) is to lighten up in your practice and in your life.
In any moment you could just listen. In any moment, you could put your full attention on the immediacy of your experience. You could look at your hand resting on your leg, or feel your bottom sitting on the cushion or on the chair. You could just be here. Instead of being not here, instead of being absorbed in thinking, planning, and worrying, instead of being caught up in the cocoon, cut off from your sense perceptions, cut off from the power and magic of the moment, you could be here. When you go out for a walk, pause frequently?stop and listen. Stop and take three conscious breaths. How precisely you create the gap doesn't really matter. Just find a way to punctuate your life with these thought-free moments. They don't have to be thought-free minutes even, they can be no more than one breath, one second. Punctuate, create gaps. As soon as you do, you realize how big the sky is, how big your mind is.
It?s good to express our gratitude to others. It?s helpful to express our appreciation of others. But if we do that with the motivation of wanting them to like us, we can remember this slogan. We can thank others, but we should give up all hope of getting thanked in return. Simply keep the door open without expectations.
Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have.
Nothing in its essence is one way or the other.
Our wish for all beings, including ourselves, is to live fearlessly with uncertainty and change. The warrior commitment involves understanding that there is nothing static about human beings.
Remember that this is not something we do just once or twice. Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime
Because of mindfulness, we see our desires and our aggression, our jealousy and our ignorance. We don't act on them; we just see them. Without mindfulness, we don't see them.
Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior's world.
Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
In even the most painful and crippling feelings, bodhicitta is available to us when we acknowledge them with an open mind and heart and realize how they are shared by all of us-when we acknowledge that we are all in the same boat feeling the same pain. In the midst of the most profound misery, we can think of others just like ourselves and wish that we could all be free of suffering and the root of suffering. When we tune into any of our feelings, become aware any of our feelings, they have the capacity to soften us and to dissolve the barriers we put up between ourselves and others.
It's as if you were in a spaceship going to the moon, and you looked back at this tiny planet Earth and realized that things were vaster than any mind could conceive and you just couldn't handle it, so you started worrying about what you were going to have for lunch. There you are in outer space with this sense of the world being so vast, and then you bring it all down into this very tiny world of worrying about what's for lunch... We do this all the time.
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.
Often peace is taught as the fourth mark of existence. This isn't the peace that's the opposite of war. It's the well-being that comes when we can see the infinite pairs of opposites as complementary.
Patience has a quality of honesty and it also has a quality of holding our seat. We don?t automatically react, even though inside we are reacting. We let all the words go and are just there with the rawness of our experience.
Remind yourself, in whatever way is personally meaningful, that it is not in your best interest to reinforce thoughts and feelings of unworthiness. Even if you've already taken the bait and feel the familiar pull of self-denigration, marshal your intelligence, courage, and humor in order to turn the tide. Ask yourself: Do I want to strengthen what I'm feeling now? Do I want to cut myself off from my basic goodness? Remind yourself that your fundamental nature is unconditionally open and free.
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.
Ego is something that you come to know - something that you befriend by not acting out or by repressing all the feelings that you feel.
Healing comes from letting there be room for all of "this" to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
In every human life (whether there are puberty rites or not) you are born, and you are born alone. You go through that birth canal alone, and then you pop out alone, and then a whole process begins. And when you die, you die alone. No one goes with you. The journey that you make, no matter what your belief about that journey is, is made alone. The fundamental idea of taking refuge is that between birth and death we are alone. Therefore, taking refuge in the buddha, the dharma, and the sangha does not mean finding consolation in them, as a child might find consolation in Mommy and Daddy. Rather, it's a basic expression of your aspiration to leap out of the nest, whether you feel ready for it or not, to go through your puberty rites and be an adult with no hand to hold. It expresses your realization that the only way to begin the real journey of life is to feel the ground of loving-kindness and respect for yourself and then to leap. In some sense, however, we never get to the point where we feel one hundred percent sure: "I have had my nurturing cradle. It's finished. Now I can leap." We are always continuing to develop maitri and continuing to leap. The other day I was talking about meeting our edge and our desire to grab on to something when we reach our limits. Then we see that there's more loving-kindness, more respect for ourselves, more confidence that needs to be nurtured. We work on that and we just keep leaping.
It's hard to know whether to laugh or to cry at the human predicament. Here we are with so much wisdom and tenderness, and?without even knowing it?we cover it over to protect ourselves from insecurity. Although we have the potential to experience the freedom of a butterfly, we mysteriously prefer the small and fearful cocoon of ego.
Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquility, nor is it attempting to become a better person. It is simply the creation of a space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes.
Often we get carried away. Without judging, without buying into likes and dislikes, we can always encourage ourselves to just be here again and again and again.
Patience is not learned in safety.
Self-improvement can have temporary results, but lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion.