pema chodron

Giving up hope is encouragement to stick with yourself

“Giving up hope is encouragement to stick with yourself, to make friends with yourself, to not run away from yourself, to return to the bare bones, no matter what’s going on. Fear of death is the background of the whole thing. It’s why we feel restless, why we panic, why there’s anxiety. But if we totally experience hopelessness, giving up all hope of alternatives to the present moment, we can have a joyful relationship with our lives, an honest, direct relationship, one that no longer ignores the reality of impermanence and death.”

~ from the Pema Chodron book, When Things Fall Apart

Humans as transitional beings

“In a book I read recently, the author talked about humans as transitional beings — beings who are neither fully caught nor fully free, but are in the process of awakening. I find it helpful to think of myself this way. I’m in the process of becoming, in the process of evolving. I’m neither doomed nor completely free, but I’m creating my future with every word, every action, every thought.”

~ Pema Chödrön

Pema Chodron and our “propensity” for certain behaviors alvin February 9, 2018 - 5:14pm

This quote/image about our “propensity” for certain behaviors comes from Pema Chodron’s book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. Ms. Chodron oftens writes and speaks about “shenpa,” which I’ll describe as some combination of “things that trigger us,” along with how we react to those triggers.

“Little girl, don’t you go letting life harden your heart”

“When I was about six years old I received the essential bodhichitta teaching from an old woman sitting in the sun. I was walking by her house one day feeling lonely, unloved and mad, kicking anything I could find. Laughing, she said to me, ‘Little girl, don’t you go letting life harden your heart.’

Right there, I received this pith instruction: we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”

Personal responsibility

I like the quote by Pema Chodron (PC) that’s shown in this image, but personally a better one for me is, “You know what, I screwed up here, and I need to own that.”

It took me about 43 years to stop blaming other people for my problems. Then one day I finally said to myself, “The only reason I don’t live in Alaska is because of me. The only reason I don’t practice yoga more is me. The only reason I don’t meditate more is me.”

A couple of times a year I still open my mouth to start blaming other people or situations for my problems, but I try to catch myself before the words actually come out, and when I wrongfully accuse someone else for my problem of the moment, I do try to apologize.

(It’s worth noting that I think PC and I are talking about two different circumstances. I’m talking about things that are under my control, which are the 99.9% of the things that happen to me in my daily life. I have read several books by PC, and I suspect that this quote is about people who have been harmed by things out of their control, such as family violence. I absolutely agree with her quote in that context.)

The less there was of me, the happier I got

A quote from this article:

“You know who said it best? Leonard Cohen. He meditated all those years at Mt. Baldy Zen Center, often for twelve hours at a time. In an interview, he said his storyline just wore itself out. He got so bored with his dramatic storyline. And then he made the comment, ‘The less there was of me, the happier I got.’”

Go beneath the story ... meditation is the tool for that

I like to listen to audiobooks when I drive around the country, and on my last drive back and forth to New Mexico I listened to the Pema Chodron audiobook, When Pain is the Doorway.

At some point in the book she talks about the storylines that constantly run around in our heads. I can’t remember if she was talking about a specific painful experience or just about storylines in general, but when I got to my hotel I made these notes about what she said: “Go beneath the story ... that takes a while, and meditation is the tool for that, to let go of inner dialog and come back to the direct experience.”

That reminded me of something else I read in another book, which is probably Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. In that book (or whatever other book I’m remembering), the author said that 99.99999% of everything in life is a dream, because everything you are thinking about at this moment has either happened in the past, or it’s something that you want to happen in the future (or fear will happen in the future). The only thing that is not a dream is what’s really happening in the present moment, and of course the present moment lasts for only an instant.

If you haven’t experienced it already, once you really experience “the present moment” you’ll find that the last paragraph is correct. (As an anti-pattern of this, earlier this morning I was shaving and thought, “Oh, I should post that story I read a little while ago on Facebook. So and so would like that.” If you are ever thinking like that, you are clearly not in the present moment.)