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
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.
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.
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 essence of the fourth noble truth is the eightfold path. Everything we do?our discipline, effort, meditation, livelihood, and every single thing that we do from the moment we?re born until the moment we die?we can use to help us to realize our unity and our completeness with all things. We can use our lives, in other words, to wake up to the fact that we?re not separate: the energy that causes us to live and be whole and awake and alive is just the energy that creates everything, and we?re part of that. We can use our lives to connect with that, or we can use them to become resentful, alienated, resistant, angry, bitter. As always, it?s up to us.
The point was not to try to achieve some special state or to transcend the sounds and movement of ordinary life. Rather we were encouraged to relax more completely with our environment and to appreciate the world around us and the ordinary truth that takes place in every moment.
There's a reason you can learn from everything: you have basic wisdom, basic intelligence, and basic goodness. Therefore, if the environment is supportive and encourages you to be brave and to open your heart and mind, you'll find yourself opening to the wisdom and compassion that's inherently there. It's like tapping into your source, tapping into what's already there. It's the willingness to open your eyes, your heart, and your mind, to allow situations in your life to become your teacher. With awareness, you are able to find out for yourself what causes misery and what causes happiness.
We are the awakened one, meaning one who continually leaps, one who continually opens, one who continually goes forward.
Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. Why? Because it is all we ever have.
When we feel dread, when we feel discomfort of any kind, it can connect us at the heart with all the other people feeling dread and discomfort. We can pause and touch into dread. We can touch bitterness of rejection and the rawness of being slighted. Whether we are at home or in a public spot or caught in a traffic jam or walking into a movie, we can stop and look at the other people there and realize that in pain and in joy they are just like me. Just like me they don?t want to feel physical pain or insecurity or rejection. Just like me they want to feel respected and physically comfortable.
Without loving-kindness for ourselves it is difficult, if not impossible, to genuinely feel it for others.
The experience of certain feelings can seem particularly pregnant with desire for resolution: loneliness, boredom, anxiety. Unless we can relax with these feelings, it's very hard to stay in the middle when we experience them. We want victory or defeat, praise or blame. For example, if somebody abandons us, we don't want to be with that raw discomfort. Instead, we conjure up a familiar identity of ourselves as a hapless victim. Or maybe we avoid the rawness by acting out and righteously telling the person how messed up he or she is. We automatically want to cover over the pain in one way or another, Identifying with victory or victimhood.
The practice of meditation helps us to get to know this basic energy really well, with tremendous honesty and warmheartedness, and we begin to figure out for ourselves what is poison and what is medicine, which means something different for each of us.
Things are as bad and as good as they seem. There's no need to add anything extra.
We are undoing a pattern... It's the human pattern: we project onto the world a zillion possibilities of attaining resolution.
We're afraid that this anger or sorrow or loneliness is going to last forever... Instead, acting it out is what makes it last.
When we protect ourselves so we won't feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.
Without loving-kindness, staying in pain is just warfare.
The first noble truth of the Buddha is that when we feel suffering, it doesn?t mean that something is wrong. What a relief. Finally somebody told the truth. Suffering is part of life, and we don?t have to feel it?s happening because we personally made the wrong move. In reality, however, when we feel suffering, we think that something is wrong. As long as we?re addicted to hope, we feel that we can tone our experience down or liven it up or change it somehow, and we continue to suffer a lot.
The process of becoming unstuck requires tremendous bravery, because basically we are completely changing our way of perceiving reality.
Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but 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: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.