Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun and author. I was first introduced to her work by my Aunt Robin in a time when I was seeking perspective and needed advice. Pema’s teachings and books span topics such as developing patience, kindness, joy, fearlessness, seeing yourself for who you truly are, breaking destructive patterns, and unlocking your potential. She is credited with having spread concepts of Buddhism and meditation to a broad Western audience, I think largely because her words and writings are so approachable and relatable. Her wisdom is bite-sized and immediately useful. Below are three short passages I particularly love from her book I carry with me, The Pocket Pema Chödrön.
A More Adventurous Way to Live
There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. You can see this even in insects and animals and birds. All of us are the same.
A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is.
Move Toward Difficulty
We are told from childhood that something is wrong with us, with the world, and with everything that comes along; it’s not perfect, it has rough edges, it has a bitter taste, it’s too loud, too soft, too sharp, too wishy-washy. We cultivate a sense of trying to make things better because something is bad here, something is a mistake here, something is a problem here. The main point of the Buddhist teachings is to dissolve the dualistic struggle, our habitual tendency to struggle against what’s happening to us or in us. These teachings instruct us to move toward difficulties rather than backing away. We don’t get this kind of encouragement very often.
Everything that occurs is not only usable and workable but is actually the path itself. We can use everything that happens to us as the means for waking up. We can use everything that occurs – whether it’s our conflicting emotions and thoughts of our seemingly outer situation – to show us where we are asleep and how we can wake up completely, utterly, without reservations.
Cultivate Loving-Kindness Toward Yourself
Some people find the teachings I offer helpful because I encourage them to be kind to themselves. The kindness that I learned from my teachers, and that I wish so much to convey to other people, is kindness toward all qualities of our being. the qualities that are the toughest to be kind to are the painful parts, where we feel ashamed, as if we don’t belong, as if we’ve just blown it, when things are falling apart for us. Maitri, or loving-kindness, means sticking with ourselves when we don’t have anything, when we feel like a loser. And it becomes the basis for extending the same unconditional friendliness with others.
1. Book: The Pocket Pema Chödrön (pocket-sized)
2. Book: Awakening Loving Kindness (pocket-sized)
3. Video: Interview with Pema Chödrön by Bill Moyers
4. Biography: About Pema at Gampo Abbey
Image credit: www.billmoyers.com