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About Pema Chödrön



Pema Chödrön (born 1936) is an American Tibetan Buddhist. She is an ordained nun, former acharya of Shambhala Buddhism and disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Chödrön has written several dozen books and audiobooks, and is principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada. Wikipedia

  

Quotes by Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön (quotes)

  • Use your life to wake you up.
  • Hell is just resistance to life.
  • Patience is not learned in safety.
  • The more neurosis the more wisdom.
  • Feel the feelings and drop the story.
  • Holding on to anything blocks wisdom.
  • Fear itself is the vanguard of wisdom
  • Softening what is rigid in our hearts.
  • Never underestimate the desire to bolt.
  • Lower your standards and relax as it is.
  • Treat yourself as your own beloved child.
  • Difficult people are the greatest teachers.
  • Things become clear when there is no escape.
  • Let your curiosity be greater than your fear.
  • When resistance is gone, the demons are gone.
  • Just where you are-that’s the place to start!
  • Nothing in its essence is one way or the other.
  • There are many changes in the weather of a day.
  • We practice to liberate ourselves from a burden.
  • Everything is fresh, the essence of realization.
  • The future is the result of what we do right now.
  • Every moment is unique, unknown, completely fresh.
  • Enlightenment is a direct experience with reality.
  • The root of compassion, is compassion for oneself.
  • At the root of all the harm we cause is ignorance.
  • Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward.
  • Whatever is happening is the path to enlightenment.
  • To live is to be willing to die over and over again.
  • My moods are continuously shifting like the weather.
  • Allow situations in your life to become your teacher.
  • Compassion starts with making friends with ourselves.
  • We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake
  • The essence of bravery is being without self-deception.
  • The idea is to develop sympathy for your own confusion.
  • Everybody loves something, even if it’s only tortillas.
  • Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth
  • Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.
  • Searching for happiness prevents us from ever finding it.
  • Resisting what is happening is a major cause of suffering.
  • You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.
  • Obstacles are our friends: they teach us where we’re stuck.
  • We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment.
  • Better to join in with humanity than to set ourselves apart.
  • We cannot be present and run our story-line at the same time.
  • Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future.
  • Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
  • The greatest obstacle to connecting with our joy is resentment.
  • Never give up on yourself. Then you will never give up on others.
  • As Buddhism moved from one culture to another, it always adapted.
  • Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world.
  • Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
  • We tend to forget that we are part of the natural scheme of things.
  • None of us is ever OK, but we all get through everything just fine.
  • Appreciate everything, even the ordinary… Especially the ordinary.
  • The future is completely open and we are writing it moment to moment.
  • The ego seeks to divide and separate. Spirit seeks to unify and heal.
  • Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing.
  • A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next.
  • You see, there really is no separation between you and everyone else.
  • In truth, there is enormous space in which to live our everyday lives.
  • Honesty without kindness, humor, and goodheartedness can be just mean.
  • The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.
  • Words themselves are neutral. It’s the charge we add to them that matters
  • If you’re invested in security and certainty, you are on the wrong planet.
  • We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds. (36)
  • As our kindness for ourselves grows, so does our kindness for other people.
  • All situations teach you, and often it’s the tough ones that teach you best.
  • Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what’s going on.
  • The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.
  • Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person.
  • Feel the wounded heart that’s underneath the addiction, self-loathing, or anger.
  • As we practice, we begin to know the difference between our fantasy and reality.
  • Right down there in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die.
  • In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves.
  • The most important aspect of being on a spiritual path may be to just keep moving.
  • Buddhism itself is all about empowering yourself, not about getting what you want.
  • We don’t experience the world fully unless we are willing to give everything away.
  • How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand? We train in staying present.
  • This is the tendency of all living things: to avoid pain and to cling to pleasure.
  • Things are as bad and as good as they seem. There’s no need to add anything extra.
  • Tonglen is a way for you to be with people who need you – beginning with yourself.
  • One of the deepest habitual patterns that we have is to feel that now is not enough.
  • The most heartbreaking thing of all is how we cheat ourselves of the present moment.
  • Compassionate action involves working with ourselves as much as working with others.
  • Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us.
  • Every day is a new opportunity to work with what you have inside toward enlightenment.
  • Sometimes we find that we like our thoughts so much that we don’t want to let them go.
  • I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away.
  • If you follow your heart, you’re going to find that it is often extremely inconvenient.
  • The teacher will never give up on the student no matter how mixed up he or she might be
  • We’re not trying to be something we aren’t; rather, we’re reconnecting with who we are.
  • When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too.
  • The essence of our whole path is in that place of discomfort, and what do we do with it?
  • This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we go.
  • Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. Why? Because it is all we ever have.
  • It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately filling up space.
  • Feeling irritated, restless, afraid, and hopeless is a reminder to listen more carefully.
  • When we scratch the wound and give into our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal.
  • Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears but rather from getting to know them well.
  • Anything we experience, no matter how challenging, can become an open pathway to awakening.
  • There’s nothing more important on our spiritual path than developing gentleness to oneself.
  • Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear?
  • Since death is certain and the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?
  • Once you create a self-justifying storyline, your emotional entrapment within it quadruples.
  • The idea of karma is that you continually get the teaching that you need to open your heart.
  • As each breath goes out, let it be the end of that moment and the birth of something new. . .
  • In a nutshell, when life is pleasant, think of others. When life is a burden, think of others.
  • Usually we think that brave people have no fear. The truth is that they are intimate with fear.
  • Discomfort of any kind becomes the basis for practice. We breathe in knowing our pain is shared.
  • To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.
  • We sow the seeds of our future hells or happiness by the way we open or close our minds right now.
  • By becoming intimate with how we close down and how we open up, we awaken our unlimited potential.
  • All you need to know is that the future is wide open and you are about to create it by what you do.
  • We are all capable of becoming fundamentalists because we get addicted to other people’s wrongness.
  • The real thing that we renounce is the tenacious hope that we could be saved from being who we are.
  • If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.
  • We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves.
  • Even if you don’t feel appreciation, just look. Feel what you feel; take an interest and be curious.
  • Unconditional good heart toward others is not even a possibility unless we attend to our own demons.
  • By the way that we think and by the way that we believe in things, in that way our world is created.
  • The third noble truth says that the cessation of suffering is letting go of holding on to ourselves.
  • Awareness is the key. Do we see the stories that we’re telling ourselves and question their validity?
  • When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something.
  • The more we witness our emotional reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain.
  • The biggest obstacle to taking a bigger perspective on life is that our emotions capture and blind us.
  • If you work with your mind, that will alleviate all the suffering that seems to come from the outside.
  • When you open the door and invite in all sentient beings as your guests, you have to drop your agenda.
  • It isn’t what happens to us that causes us to suffer; it’s what we say to ourselves about what happens.
  • When we are willing to stay even a moment with uncomfortable energy, we gradually learn not to fear it.
  • Suffering begins to dissolve when we can question the belief or the hope that there’s anywhere to hide.
  • Simply be present with your own shifting energies and with the unpredictabilit y of life as it unfolds.
  • If there’s any possibility for enlightenment, it’s right now, not at some future time. Now is the time.
  • Blaming is a way to protect your heart, trying to protect what is soft and open and tender in yourself.
  • To put it concisely, we suffer when we resist the noble and irrefutable truth of impermanence and death.
  • Don’t worry about achieving. Don’t worry about perfection. Just be there each moment as best you can.
  • The truth is that good and bad coexist; sour and sweet coexist. They aren’t really opposed to each other.
  • What you do for yourself, you’re doing for others, and what you do for others, you’re doing for yourself.
  • Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.
  • Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.
  • All the wars, all the hatred, all the ignorance in the world come out of being so invested in our opinions.
  • Without loving-kindness for ourselves, it is difficult, if not impossible, to genuinely feel it for others.
  • Life’s work is to wake up, to let the things that enter your life wake you up rather than put you to sleep.
  • When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless.
  • When we feel left out, inadequate, or lonely, can we take a warrior’s perspective and contact bodhichitta?
  • Tonglen dissolves your solid sense of “I’m the wise person, I’m going to help this poor, unfortunate loser.”
  • Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.
  • Clarity and decisiveness come from the willingness to slow down, to listen to and look at what’s happening.
  • The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought.
  • There’s a reason you can learn from everything: you have basic wisdom, basic intelligence, and basic goodness.
  • Let difficulty transform you. And it will. In my experience, we just need help in learning how not to run away.
  • If you ask why we meditate, I would say it’s so we can become more flexible and tolerant to the present moment.
  • Surrendering, letting go of possessiveness, and complete nonattachment-all are synonyms for accumulating merit.
  • At some point, we realize that what we do for ourselves benefits others, and what we do for others benefits us.
  • Everything in our lives has the potential to wake us up or put us to sleep. Allowing it to awaken us is up to us.
  • All ego really is, is our opinions, which we take to be solid, real, and the absolute truth about how things are.
  • Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.
  • The wisdom, the strength, the confidence – the awakened heart and mind are always accessible — here, now, always.
  • While we are sitting in meditation, we are simply exploring humanity and all of creation in the form of ourselves.
  • Sitting meditation gives us a way to move closer to our thoughts and emotions and to get in touch with our bodies.
  • Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both…Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both.
  • Inner #‚Äé peace  begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your  #‚Äé emotions
  • Resistance to unwanted circumstances has the power to keep those circumstances alive and well for a very long time.
  • It is possible to move through the drama of our lives without believing so earnestly in the character that we play.
  • In the end, that’s what we all need more than anything else: to be there for each other, in every kind of situation.
  • In meditation, you learn how to get out of your own way long enough for there to be room for your wisdom to manifest
  • Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.
  • What if rather than being disheartened by the ambiguity, the uncertainty of life, we accepted it and relaxed into it?
  • Patience is the training in abiding with the restlessness of our energy and letting things evolve at their own speed.
  • The central question of a warrior’s training is not how we avoid uncertainty and fear but how we relate to discomfort.
  • By not knowing, not hoping to know and not acting like we know what’s happening, we begin to access our inner strength.
  • Share the wealth. Be generous with your joy. Give away what you most want. Be generous with your insights and delights.
  • The essence of generosity is letting go. Pain is always a sign that we are holding on to something – usually ourselves.
  • We can begin to open our hearts to others when we have no hope of getting anything back. We just do it for its own sake.
  • Deep down in the human spirit, there is a reservoir of courage. It is always available, always waiting to be discovered.
  • We don’t sit in meditation to become good meditators. We sit in meditation so that we’ll be more awake in our lives.
  • If you work with your mind, instead of trying to change everything on the outside, that’s how your temper will cool down.
  • The root of suffering is resisting the certainty that no matter what the circumstances, uncertainty is all we truly have.
  • According to the Buddhist belief, you can go on and on indefinitely, so you see your life as just a brief moment in time.
  • Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allowing ourselves to move gently toward what scares us.
  • Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.
  • Each time you stay present with fear and uncertainty, you’re letting go of a habitual way of finding security and comfort.
  • A heartfelt sense of aspiring cuts through negativity about yourself; it cuts through the heavy trips you lay on yourself.
  • Being satisfied with what we already have is a magical golden key to being alive in a full, unrestricted, and inspired way.
  • So war and peace start in the human heart. Whether that heart is open or whether that heart closes has global implications.
  • It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share.
  • When there’s a disappointment, I don’t know if it’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.
  • The first noble truth of the Buddha is that when we feel suffering, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. What a relief.
  • You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts.
  • We’re afraid that this anger or sorrow or loneliness is going to last forever… Instead, acting it out is what makes it last.
  • The second noble truth says that this resistance is the…mechanism of what we call ego, that resisting life causes suffering.
  • We are undoing a pattern… It’s the human pattern: we project onto the world a zillion possibilities of attaining resolution.
  • Our neurosis and our wisdom are made out of the same material. If you throw out your neurosis, you also throw out your wisdom.
  • Patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact, it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself.
  • That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. Everything is in process.
  • Determination means to use every challenge you meet as an opportunity to open your heart and soften, determined to not withdraw.
  • It’s helpful to remind yourself that meditation is about opening and relaxing with whatever arises, without picking and choosing.
  • There’s something delicious about finding fault with something. And that can be including finding fault with one’s self, you know?
  • This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we’re arrogant and soften us when we are unkind.
  • This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted and shaky – that’s called liberation.
  • Although we have the potential to experience the freedom of a butterfly, we mysteriously prefer the small and fearful cocoon of ego.
  • The approach is that the best way to use unwanted circumstances on the path of enlightenment is not to resist but to lean into them.
  • Until we stop clinging to the concept of good and evil, the world will continue to manifest as friendly goddesses and harmful demons.
  • Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic-this is the spiritual path.
  • If you aren’t feeding the fire of anger or the fire of craving by talking to yourself, then the fire doesn’t have anything to feed on.
  • Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.
  • I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be.
  • Tonglen practice begins to dissolve the illusion that each of us is alone with this personal suffering that no one else can understand.
  • 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.
  • Meditation is not about getting out of ourselves or achieving something better. It is about getting in touch with what you already are.
  • If it’s painful, you become willing not just to endure it but also to let it awaken your heart and soften you. You learn to embrace it.
  • We give it up and just look directly with compassion and humor at who we are. Then loneliness is no threat and heartache, no punishment.
  • The Process of becoming unstuck requires tremendous bravery, because basically we are completely changing our way of perceiving reality.
  • Patience takes courage. It is not an ideal state of calm. In fact, when we practice patience we will see our agitation far more clearly.
  • True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.
  • To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity.
  • Most spiritual experiences begin with suffering. They begin with groundlessness. They begin when the rug has been pulled out from under us.
  • We feel that we have to be right so that we can feel good… The whole right and wrong business closes us down and makes our world smaller.
  • When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of of the heart.
  • As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others – what and whom we can work with, and how – becomes wider.
  • What happens with you when you begin to feel uneasy, unsettled, queasy? Notice the panic, notice when you instantly grab for something. (51)
  • The painful thing is that when we buy into disapproval,we are practicing disapproval. When we buy into harshness,we are practicing harshness.
  • But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
  • We can drop the fundamental hope that there is a better “me” who one day will emerge. We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we were not there.
  • Trying to run away is never the answer to being a fully human. Running away from the immediacy of our experience is like preferring death to life.
  • We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.
  • 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.
  • It becomes increasingly clear that we won’t be free of self-destructive patterns unless we develop a compassionate understanding of what they are.
  • One can appreciate & celebrate each moment ‚Äî there’s nothing more sacred. There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!
  • Whatever happens in your life, joyful or painful, do not be swept away by reactivity. Be patient with yourself and don’t lose your sense of perspective.
  • Generosity is an activity that loosens us up. By offering whatever we can – a dollar, a flower, a word of encouragement – we are training in letting go.
  • It isn’t the things that happen to us in our lives that cause us to suffer, it’s how we relate to the things that happen to us that causes us to suffer.
  • In practicing meditation, we’re not trying to live up to some kind of ideal — quite the opposite. We’re just being with our experience, whatever it is.
  • Without giving up hope‚Äîthat there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be‚Äîwe will never relax with where we are or who we are.
  • Don’t get caught up in hopes of what you’ll achieve and how good your situation will be some day in the future. What you do right now is what matters.
  • As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success, we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves, nor will we find compassion.
  • Our patterns are well established, seductive, and comforting. Just wanting for them to be ventilated isn’t enough. Those of us who struggle with this know.
  • There isn’t anything except your own life that can be used as ground for your spiritual practice. Spiritual practice is your life, twenty-four hours a day.
  • we come to realize that other people’s welfare is just as important as our own. In helping them, we help ourselves. In helping ourselves, we help the world.
  • Lean into the sharp points and fully experience them. The essence of bravery is being without self-deception. Wisdom is inherent in (understanding) emotions.
  • Opening to the world begins to benefit ourselves and others simultaneously. The more we relate with others, the more quickly we discover where we’re blocked.
  • We can gradually drop our ideals of who we think we ought to be, or who we think we want to be, or who we think other people think we want to be or ought to be.
  • The point is that our true nature is not some ideal that we have to live up to. It’s who we are right now, and that’s what we can make friends with and celebrate.
  • Meditation isn’t really about getting rid of thoughts, it’s about changing the pattern of grasping on to things, which in our everyday experience is our thoughts.
  • I have all the support I need to simply relax and be with the transitional, in-process quality of my life. I have all I need to engage in the process of awakening.
  • Ordinarily we are swept away by habitual momentum and don’t interrupt our patterns slightly. When we feel betrayed or disappointed, does it occur to us to practice?
  • Our true nature is like a precious jewel: although it may be temporarily buried in mud, it remains completely brilliant and unaffected. We simply have to uncover it.
  • 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.
  • Wholeheartedly do what it takes to awaken your clear-seeing intelligence, but one day at a time, one moment at a time. If we live that way, we will benefit this earth.
  • it is only to the extent that we are willing to expose ourselves again and again to annihilation that we are able to find that part of ourselves that is indestructible.
  • Rejoicing in the good fortune of others is a practice that can help us when we feel emotionally shut down and unable to connect with others. Rejoicing generates good will.
  • As Buddhism moved to the West, one of the big characteristics was the strong place of women. That didn’t exist in the countries of origin. It’s just a sign of our culture.
  • The best spiritual instruction is when you wake up in the morning and say, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen today.’ And then carry that kind of curiosity through your life.
  • We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience and Infinite love is the only truth; everything else is an illusion.
  • Everything that human beings feel, we feel. We can become extremely wise and sensitive to all of humanity and the whole universe simply by knowing ourselves, just as we are.
  • So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior. (68)
  • Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth, it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened.
  • Each of us has a “soft spot”: the place in our experience where we feel vulnerable and tender. This soft spot is inherent in appreciation and love, and it is equally inherent in pain.
  • A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.
  • People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That’s not the idea at all.
  • It is a commitment to respect whatever life brings that we develop wholehearted determination to use discomfort as an opportunity for awakening, rather than trying to make it disappear.
  • Somehow, in the process of trying to deny that things are always changing, we lose our sense of the sacredness of life. We tend to forget that we are part of the natural scheme of things.
  • Are you experiencing restlessness? Stay! Are fear and loathing out of control? Stay! Aching knees and throbbing back? Stay! What’s for lunch? Stay! I can’t stand this another minute! Stay!
  • The Buddha taught that we’re not actually in control, which is a pretty scary idea. But when you let things be as they are, you will be a much happier, more balanced, compassionate person.
  • There is no cultivation of patience when your pattern is to just try to seek harmony and smooth everything out. Patience implies willingness to be alive rather than trying to seek harmony.
  • No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear…the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves, but by all means make it go away. (5)
  • Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.
  • The essence of practice is always the same: instead of falling prey to a chain reaction of revenge or self-hatred, we gradually learn to catch the emotional reaction and drop the story lines.
  • If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be eliminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. This is the first step on the path.
  • If we knew that tonight we were going to go blind, we would take a long, last real look at every blade of grass, every cloud formation, every speck of dust, every rainbow, raindrop-everything.
  • Whatever you are doing, take the attitude of wanting it directly or indirectly to benefit others. Take the attitude of wanting it to increase your experience of kinship with your fellow beings.
  • Every moment is incredibly unique and fresh, and when we drop into the moment, as meditation allows us to do, we learn how to truly taste this tender and mysterious life that we share together.
  • Every small problem most likely stems from the same root as large problems, and so there is no need to always go deep. One can use anything for the therapeutic process and/if this link is made.
  • The only way to ease our pain is to experience it fully. Learn to stay with uneasiness, learn to stay with the tightening, so that the habitual chain reaction doesn’t continue to rule your life.
  • We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea.
  • The most complete and true happiness comes in moments when you feel right there, completely present, with no ideas about good and bad, right and wrong – just a sense of open heart and open mind.
  • Mindfulness is loving all the details of our lives, and awareness is the natural thing that happens: life begins to open up, and you realize that you’re always standing at the center of the world.
  • I equate ego with trying to figure everything out instead of going with the flow. That closes your heart and your mind to the person or situation that’s right in front of you, and you miss so much.
  • If seeing that other person’s pain brings up your fear or anger or confusion (which often happens), just start doing tonglen for yourself and all the other people who are stuck in the very same way.
  • The next step is to learn to communicate with the people that you feel are causing your pain and misery- not to learn how to prove them wrong and yourself right but how to communicate from the heart.
  • Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. Even if we run a hundred miles an hour to the other side of the continent, we find the very same problem awaiting us when we arrive.
  • The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.
  • 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.
  • You must learn to sit with the restless, painful energy and not let the momentum pull you under and cause you to do the same thing over and over that’s ruining your life and the lives of those around you.
  • The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping into unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be just to keep moving.
  • It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now… with its aches and it pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.
  • Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back.
  • Constantly apply cheerfulness, if for no other reason than because you are on this spiritual path. Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.
  • Finding the courage to go to the places that scare us cannot happen without compassionate inquiry into the workings of ego… Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears but from getting to know them well.
  • If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart.
  • One of the main discoveries of meditation is seeing how we continually run away from the present moment, how we avoid being here just as we are. That’s not considered to be a problem. The point is to see it.
  • Fear is a natural reaction of moving closer to the truth. If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.
  • In meditation and in our daily lives there are three qualities that we can nurture, cultivate, and bring out. We already possess these, but they can be ripened: precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go.
  • One way to practice staying present is to simply sit still for a while and listen. For one minute, listen to the sounds close to you. For one minute, listen to the sounds at a distance. Just listen attentively.
  • If your mind is expansive and unfettered, you will find yourself in a more accommodating world, a place that’s endlessly interesting and alive. That quality isn’t inherent in the place but in your state of mind.
  • 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.
  • We have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are, or we can relax and embrace the open-endedness of the human situation, which is fresh, unfixated, unbiased.
  • What’s encouraging about meditation is that, even if we shut down, we can no longer shut down in ignorance. We see very clearly that we’re closing off. That in itself begins to illuminate the darkness of ignorance.
  • It isn’t the things that are happening to us that cause us to suffer, it’s what we say to ourselves about the things that are happening. The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.
  • Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. It is all we ever have, so we night as well work with it rather than struggling against it. We might as well make it our friend and teacher rather than our enemy.
  • When things fall apart in your life, you feel as if your whole world is crumbling. But actually it’s your fixed identity that’s crumbling. And as Ch√∂gyam Trungpa used to tell us, that’s cause for celebration.
  • Meditation takes us just as we are, with our confusion and our sanity. This complete acceptance of ourselves as we are is called maitri, or unconditional friendliness, a simple, direct relationship with the way we are.
  • How will we experience the world a month, a year, or five years from now? Will we be even angrier, more grasping and fearful, or will some shift have occurred? This depends entirely on the tendencies we reinforce today.
  • 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.
  • When we touch the center of sorrow, when we sit with discomfort without trying to fix it, when we stay present to the pain of disapproval or betrayal and let it soften us, these are times that we connect with bohdichitta.
  • If we Pause and breathe in and out, then we can have the experience of timeless presence, of the inexpressible wisdom and goodness of our own minds. We can look at the world with fresh eyes and hear things with fresh ears.
  • The still lake without ripples is an image of our minds at ease, so full of unlimited friendliness for all the junk at the bottom of the lake that we don’t feel the need to churn up the waters just to avoid looking at what’s there.
  • There comes a time when the bubble of ego is popped and you can’t get the ground back for an extended period of time. Those times, when you absolutely cannot get it back together, are the most rich and powerful times in our lives.
  • It’s a transformative experience to simply pause instead of immediately fill up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness. -Pema Chodron, from “When Things Fall Apart
  • All the terrible things we do to ourselves and others from alcoholism to character assignation to abuse to murder come from one cause: the inability to stay present with an uncomfortable feeling in the body and seek short-term relief.
  • The very first noble truth of the Buddha points out that suffering is inevitable for human beings as long as we believe that things last‚Äîthat they don’t disintegrate, that they can be counted on to satisfy our hunger for security.
  • When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into it’s dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment
  • Being preoccupied with our self-image is like being deaf and blind. It’s like standing in the middle of a vast field of wildflowers with a black hood over our heads. It’s like coming upon a tree of singing birds while wearing earplugs.
  • So many of us start along the spiritual path because we are suffering. But you must realize that for real healing to occur, there must first be deep compassion for yourself, especially the parts of yourself you dislike or consider ugly.
  • If you see a homeless person on the street, and they need food, housing, medical attention – if you can give that, do it. But at the same time, work with tonglen, because that is how you start dissolving the barrier between you and them.
  • We spend all our energy and waste our lives trying to re-create these zones of safety, which are always falling apart. That’s the essence of samsara – the cycle of suffering that comes from continuing to seek happiness in all the wrong places.
  • If right now our emotional reaction to seeing a certain person or hearing certain news is to fly into a rage or to get despondent or something equally extreme, it’s because we have been cultivating that particular habit for a very long time.
  • We don’t experience the world fully unless we are willing to give everything away. Samaya means not holding anything back, not preparing our escape route, not looking for alternatives, not thinking that there is ample time to do things later
  • Trying to change ourselves doesn’t work in the long run because we’re resisting our own energy. Self-improvemen t can have temporary results, but lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion.
  • It’s important to remember, when we’re out there aggressively working for reform, that, even if our particular issue doesn’t get resolved, we are adding peace to the world. We have to do our best and at the same time give up all hope of fruition.
  • Honesty without kindness, humor, and goodheartedness can be just mean. From the very beginning to the very end, pointing to our own hearts to discover what is true isn’t just a matter of honesty but also of compassion and respect for what we see.
  • Don’t worry about achieving. Don’t worry about perfection. Just be there each moment as best you can. When you realize you’ve wandered off again, simply very lightly acknowledge that. This light touch is the golden key to reuniting with our openness.
  • Ego is like a room of your own, a room with a view with the temperature and the smells and the music that you like. You want it your own way. You’d just like to have a little peace, you’d like to have a little happiness, you know, just gimme a break.
  • If you’re aggressive in your dealings, that’s how you’ll be regarded in the world. You might smile and give generously, but if you frequently explode in anger, people never feel comfortable in your presence and you’ll never have peace of mind.
  • When people are hurting, what they really need is someone who is fully there for them – not someone who is condescending or officious. The only way for you to be there for them is by facing your fear or anger, whatever feelings cause you to shut down.
  • Each person’s life is like a mandala – a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life … everything that shows up in your mandala is a vehicle for your awakening.
  • To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.
  • Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
  • A thoroughly good relationship with ourselves results in being still, which doesn’t mean we don’t run and jump and dance about. It means there’s no compulsiveness. We don’t overwork, overeat, oversmoke, overseduce. In short, we begin to stop causing harm.

 

  • Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.

 

  • Few of us are satisfied with retreating from the world and just working on ourselves. We want our training to manifest and to be of benefit. The bodhisattva-warrior, therefore, makes a vow to wake up not just for himself but for the welfare of all beings.

 

  • Compassion isn’t some kind of self-improvement project or ideal that we’re trying to live up to. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.
  • The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.
  • Sometimes people’s spiritual ideas become fixed and they use them against those who don’t share their beliefs – in effect, becoming fundamentalist. It’s very dangerous – the finger of righteous indignation pointing at someone who is identified as bad or wrong.
  • If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That’s the true practice of peace.
  • We are not given any promises that, because of our noble intentions, everything will be okay. We learn that what truly heals is gratitude and tenderness. We [need] to transform our minds and actions for the sake of other people and for the future of the world.
  • If you have rage and righteously act it out and blame it all on others, it’s really you who suffers. The other people and the environment suffer also, but you suffer more because you’re being eaten up inside with rage, causing you to hate yourself more and more
  • As for our inner level of obstacle, perhaps the only enemy we have is that we don’t like the way reality is now and therefore wish it would go away fast. But what we need to acknowledge is that nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
  • The way I regard those who hurt me today will affect how I experience the world in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it.
  • It has a lot to do with developing patience, not with the check-out person so much, but with your own pain that arises, the rawness and the vulnerability, and sending some kind of warmth and love to that rawness and soreness. I think that’s how we have to practice.
  • Hold the sadness and pain of samsara [suffering, confusion] in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun [fundamental awake human nature]. Then the warrior [brave enough to look at & work with reality] can make a proper cup of tea.
  • Someone needs to encourage us not to brush aside what we feel. Not to be ashamed of the love and grief that it arouses in us. Not to be afraid of pain. Someone needs to encourage us: that this soft spot in us could be awakened, and that to do this would change our lives.
  • When we struggle agains our energy we reject the source of wisdom. Anger without the fixation is none other than clear-seeing wisdom. Pride without fixation is experienced as equanimity. The energy of passion when it’s free of grasping is wisdom that sees all the angles.
  • You’re the only one who knows when you’re using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you’re opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is – working with it rather than struggling against it. You’re the only one who knows.
  • Next, feel your heart, literally placing your hand on your chest if you find that helpful. This is a way of accepting yourself just as you are in that moment, a way of saying, “This is my experience right now, and it’s okay.” Then go into the next moment without any agenda.
  • Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the in-between state. It’s the kind of place we usually want to avoid. The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid.
  • One very powerful and effective way to work with this tendency to push away pain and hold on to pleasure is the practice of tonglen. ‚ÄØIn tonglen practice, when we see or feel suffering, we ‚ÄØbreathe in with the notion of completely feeling it, accepting it, and owning it.
  • Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. In other words, if we’re going to be more cheerful in the future, it’s because of our aspiration and exertion to be cheerful in the present. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now.
  • Only in an open, nonjudgmental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling. Only in an open space where we’re not all caught up in our own version of reality can we see and hear and feel who others really are, which allows us to be with them and communicate with them properly.
  • It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is a part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.
  • When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.
  • Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquillity, 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.
  • Difficult things provoke all your irritations and bring your habitual patterns to the surface. And that becomes the moment of truth.  You have the choice to launch into your lousy habitual patterns, or to stay with the rawness and discomfort of the situation and let it transform you.
  • Not causing harm requires staying awake. Part of being awake is slowing down enough to notice what we say and do. The more we witness our emotional chain reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain. It becomes a way of life to stay awake, slow down, and notice.
  • In the most ordinary terms, egolessness is a flexible identity. It manifests as inquisitiveness , as adaptability, as humor, as playfulness. It is our capacity to relax with not knowing, not figuring everything out, with not being at all sure who we are, or who anyone else is, either.
  • Everything is material for the seed of happiness, if you look into it with inquisitiveness and curiosity. The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment. There always is the potential to create an environment of blame -or one that is conducive to loving-kindness.
  • 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 Buddha taught that flexibility and openness bring strength and that running from groundlessness weakens us and brings pain. But do we understand that becoming familiar with the running away is the key? Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears but from getting to know them well
  • Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.
  • When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality. (9)
  • Maybe the most important teaching is to lighten up and relax. It’s such a huge help in working with our crazy mixed-up minds to remember that what we’re doing is unlocking a softness that is in us and letting it spread. We’re letting it blur the sharp corners of self-criticism and complaint.
  • If your everyday practice is open to all your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that – then that will take you are far as you can go. And then you’ll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught.
  • We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs – or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives.
  • Come back to square one, just the minimum bare bones. Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time-that is the basic message.
  • Whole-heartedn ess is a precious gift, but no one can actually give it to you. You have to find the path that has heart and then walk it impeccably….It’ s like someone laughing in your ear, challenging you to figure out what to do when you don’t know what to do. It humbles you. It opens your heart.
  • Rather than becoming more relaxed, you start pulling down the shades and locking the door. When you do go out, you find the experience more and more unsettling and disagreeable. You become touchier, more fearful, more irritable than ever. The more you try to get it your way, the less you feel at home.
  • My experience with forgiveness is that it sort of comes spontaneously at a certain point and to try to force it it’s not really forgiveness. It’s Buddhist philosophy or something spiritual jargon that you’re trying to live up to but you’re just using it against yourself as a reason why you’re not okay.
  • The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.
  • If we begin to get in touch with whatever we feel with some kind of kindness, our protective shells will melt, and we’ll find that more areas of our lives are workable. AS we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others-what and whom we can work with, and how-becomes wider.
  • Anyone who stands on the edge of the unknown, fully in the present without reference point, experiences groundlessness. That’s when our understanding goes deeper, when we find that the present moment is a pretty vulnerable place and that this can be completely unnerving and completely tender at the same time.
  • To stay with that shakiness-to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge-that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic-this is the spiritual path.
  • Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be 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.
  • 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 what this world is…
  • It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that meditation becomes a transformative process. Only when we relate with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception, can we let go of harmful patterns. Without maitri (metta), renunciation of old habits becomes abusive. This is an important point.
  • 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.
  • We can put our whole heart into whatever we do; but if we freeze our attitude into for or against, we’re setting ourselves up for stress. Instead, we could just go forward with curiosity, wondering where this experiment will lead. This kind of open-ended inquisitiveness captures the spirit of enthusiasm, or heroic perseverance.
  • Sticking with uncertainty is how we learn to relax in the midst of chaos, how we learn to be cool when the ground beneath us suddenly disappears. 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‚Äîover and over again.
  • Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what is going on, but that there is something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.
  • That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. It is the ordinary state of affairs. Everything is in process. Everything – every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate – is always changing, moment to moment.
  • Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s the ground, that’s what we study, that’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.
  • 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‚Äîwithout even knowing it‚Äîwe 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.
  • Instead of asking ourselves, ‘How can I find security and happiness?’ we could ask ourselves, ‘Can I touch the center of my pain? Can I sit with suffering, both yours and mine, without trying to make it go away? Can I stay present to the ache of loss or disgrace-disapp ointment in all its many forms-and let it open me?’ This is the trick.
  • The Buddha’s principal message that day was that holding on to anything blocks wisdom. Any conclusion that we draw must be let go. The only way to fully understand the bodhichitta teachings, the only way to practice them fully, is to abide in the unconditional openness of the prajna, patiently cutting through all our tendencies to hang on.
  • What you do for yourself, any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty and clear seeing toward yourself, will affect how you experience your world. In fact, it will transform how you experience the world. What you do for yourself, you’re doing for others, and what you do for others, you’re doing for yourself.
  • Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important. The reason it’s important is that, fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe.
  • Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape – all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.
  • As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.
  • “Be grateful to everyone” is about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected… If we were to make a list of people we don’t like – people we find obnoxious, threatening, or worthy of contempt – we would discover much about those aspects of ourselves that we can’t face… other people trigger the karma that we haven’t worked out.
  • Just pausing for two to three breaths is a perfect way to stay present. This is a good use of our life. Indeed, it is an excellent, joyful use of our life. Instead of getting better and better at avoiding, we can learn to accept the present moment as if we had invited it, and work with it instead of against it, making it our ally rather than our enemy.
  • When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience our fear of pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.
  • Ordinarily we are swept away by habitual momentum. We don’t interrupt our patterns even slightly. With practice, however, we learn to stay with a broken heart, with a nameless fear, with the desire for revenge. Sticking with uncertainty is how we learn to relax in the midst of chaos, how we learn to be cool when the ground beneath us suddenly disappears.
  • Loving kindness towards ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. It means we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.
  • We think that the point is to pass the test or 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. (10)
  • I dedicate the merit of the occasion to all beings. This gesture of universal friendship has been likened to a drop of fresh spring water. If we put it on a rock in the sunshine, it will soon evaporate. If we put it in the ocean, however, it will never be lost. Thus the wish is made that we not keep the teachings to ourselves but to use them to benefit others.
  • We can stop struggling with what occurs and see its true face without calling it the enemy. It helps to remember that our spiritual practice is not about accomplishing anything – not about winning or losing – but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is. That is what we are doing when we sit down to meditate. That attitude spreads into the rest of our lives.
  • You could begin to notice whenever you find yourself blaming others or justifying yourself. If you spent the rest of your life just noticing that and letting it be a way to uncover the silliness of the human condition-the tragic yet comic drama that we all continually buy into-you could develop a lot of wisdom and a lot of kindness as well as a great sense of humor.
  • It’s said that when we die, the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – dissolve one by one, each into the other, and finally just dissolve into space. But while we’re living, we share the energy that makes everything, from a blade of grass to an elephant, grow and live and then inevitably wear out and die. This energy, this life force, creates the whole world.
  • The next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky. This is where the courage comes in. Usually we think that brave people have no fear. The truth is that they are intimate with fear. When I was first married, my husband said I was one of the bravest people he knew. When I asked him why, he said because I was a complete coward but went ahead and did things anyhow.
  • Cool loneliness allows us to look honestly and without aggressionat our own minds. We can gradually drop our ideals of who we think weought to be, or who we think we want to be, or who we think other peoplethink we want to be or ought to be. We give it up and just look directlywith compassion and humor at who we are. Then loneliness is no threat andheartache, no punishment.
  • Underneath our ordinary lives, underneath all the talking we do, all the moving we do, all the thoughts in our minds, there’s a fundamental groundlessness. It’s there bubbling along all the time. We experience it as restlessness and edginess. We experience it as fear. It motivates passion, aggression, ignorance, jealousy, and pride, but we never get down to the essence of it.
  • The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. . . Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. . . Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves.
  • When we start out on a spiritual path we often have ideals we think we’re supposed to live up to. We feel we’re supposed to be better than we are in some way. But with this practice you take yourself completely as you are. Then ironically, taking in pain – breathing it in for yourself and all others in the same boat as you are heightens your awareness of exactly where you’re stuck.
  • If you look back at history or you look at any place in the world where religious groups or ethnic groups or racial groups or political groups are killing each other, or families have been feuding for years and years, you can see – because you’re not particularly invested in that particular argument – that there will never be peace until somebody softens what is rigid in their heart.
  • Many people hope a spiritual practice will let them avoid what they are ashamed of. But when you hide something from yourself, you are going to project it onto your world. You continually find it in others and it becomes the source of prejudices and dogmatic views. On top of that, you feel bad about yourself, because you aren’t the loving, open-minded, “spiritual” person you’d like to be.
  • Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It’s restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.
  • Affirmations are like screaming that you’re okay in order to overcome this whisper that you’re not. That’s a big contrast to actually uncovering the whisper, realizing that it’s a passing memory, and moving closer to all those fears and all those edgy feelings that maybe you’re not okay. Well, no big deal. None of us is okay and all of us are fine. It’s not just one way. We are walking, talking paradoxes.
  • 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 painful thing is that when we buy into disapproval, we are practicing disapproval. When we buy into harshness, we are practicing harshness. The more we do it, the stronger these qualities become. How sad it is that we become so expert at causing harm to ourselves and others. The trick then is to practice gentleness and letting go. We can learn to meet whatever arises with curiosity and not make it such a big deal.
  • Relaxing with something as familiar as loneliness is good discipline for realizing the profundity of the unresolved moments of our lives. We are cheating ourselves when we run away from the ambiguity of loneliness…..Rather than persecuting yourself or feeling that something terribly wrong is happening, right there in the moment of sadness and longing, could you relax and touch the limitless space of the human heart?
  • While we are sitting in meditation, we are simply exploring humanity and all of creation in the form of ourselves. We can become the world’s greatest experts on anger, jealousy, and self-deprecatio n, as well as on joyfulness, clarity, and insight. Everything that human beings feel, we feel. We can become extremely wise and sensitive to all of humanity and the whole universe simply by knowing ourselves, just as we are.
  • Instead of making others right or wrong, or bottling up right and wrong in ourselves, there’s a middle way, a very powerful middle way…… Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right? Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are? It is powerful to practice this way….. true communication can happen only in that open space.
  • Times are difficult globally; awakening is no longer a luxury or an ideal. It’s becoming critical. We don’t need to add more depression, more discouragement, or more anger to what’s already here. It’s becoming essential that we learn how to relate sanely with difficult times. The earth seems to be beseeching us to connect with joy and discover our innermost essence. This is the best way that we can benefit others.
  • When Things Fall Apart‚Äù and I quote ‚ÄúLife is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.
  • We feel that we have to be right so that we can feel good. We don’t want to be wrong because then we’ll feel bad. But we could be more compassionate toward all these parts of ourselves. The whole right and wrong business closes us down and makes our world smaller. Wanting situations and relationships to be solid, permanent, and graspable obscures the pith of the matter, which is that things are fundamentally groundless.
  • We insist on being Someone, with a capital S. We get security from defining ourselves as worthless or worthy, superior or inferior. We waste precious time exaggerating or romanticizing or belittling ourselves with a complacent surety that yes, that’s who we are. We mistake the openness of our being‚Äîthe inherent wonder and surprise of each moment‚Äîfor a solid, irrefutable self. Because of this misunderstanding, we suffer.
  • When you refrain from habitual thoughts and behavior, the uncomfortable feelings will still be there. They don’t magically disappear. Over the years, I’ve come to call resting with the discomfort ‚Äúthe detox period,‚Äù because when you don’t act on your habitual patterns, it’s like giving up an addiction. You’re left with the feelings you were trying to escape. The practice is to make a wholehearted relationship with that
  • When we cling to thoughts and memories, we are clinging to what cannot be grasped. When we touch these phantoms and let them go, we may discover a space, a break in the chatter, a glimpse of open sky. This is our birthright‚Äîthe wisdom with which we were born, the vast unfolding display of primordial richness, primordial openness, primordial wisdom itself. When one thought has ended and another has not yet begun, we can rest in that space.
  • At least once a year, I imagine that I am about to die. Looking back as truthfully as I can at my entire life, I give full attention to the things I wish hadn’t occurred. Recognizing these mistakes honestly but without self-recrimination, I try to rejoice in the innate wisdom that allows me to see so bravely, and I feel compassion for how I so frequently messed up. Then I can go forward. The future is wide open, and what I do with it is up to me.
  • We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.
  • The peace that we are looking for is not peace that crumbles as soon as there is difficulty or chaos. Whether we’re seeking inner peace or global peace or a combination of the two, the way to experience it is to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises. Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth, it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened.
  • Ego could be defined as whatever covers up basic goodness. From an experiential point of view, what is ego covering up? It’s covering up our experience of just being here, just fully being where we are, so that we can relate with the immediacy of our experience. Egolessness is a state of mind that has complete confidence in the sacredness of the world. It is unconditional well being, unconditional joy that includes all the different qualities of our experience.
  • For arousing compassion, the nineteenth-century yogi Patrul Rinpoche suggested imagining beings in torment – an animal about to be slaughtered, a person awaiting execution. To make it more immediate, he recommended imagining ourselves in their place. Particularly painful is his image of a mother with no arms watching as a raging river sweeps her child away. To contact the suffering of another being fully and directly is as painful as being in the woman’s shoes.
  • Although it is embarrassing and painful, it is very healing to stop hiding from yourself. It is healing to know all the ways that you’re sneaky, all the ways that you hide out, all the ways that you shut down, deny, close off, criticize people, all your weird little ways. You can know all of that with some sense of humor and kindness. By knowing yourself, you’re coming to know humanness altogether. We are all up against these things. We are all in this together.
  • Rather than going after our walls and barriers with a sledgehammer, we pay attention to them. With gentleness and honesty, we move closer to those walls. We touch them and smell them and get to know them well. We begin a process of acknowledging our aversions and our cravings. We become familiar with the strategies and beliefs we use to build the walls: What are the stories I tell myself? What repels me and what attracts me? We start to get curious about what’s going on.
  • Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.
  • Holding on to beliefs limits our experience of life. That doesn’t mean that beliefs or ideas or thinking is a problem; the stubborn attitude of having to have things be a particular way, grasping on to our beliefs and thoughts, all these cause the problems. To put it simply, using your belief system this way creates a situation in which you choose to be blind instead of being able to see, to be deaf instead of being able to hear, to be dead rather than alive, asleep rather than awake.
  • 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.
  • Some of us can accept others right where they are a lot more easily than we can accept ourselves. We feel that compassion is reserved for someone else, and it never occurs to us to feel it for ourselves. My experience is that by practicing without ‘shoulds,’ we gradually discover our wakefulness and our confidence. Gradually, without any agenda except to be honest and kind, we assume responsibility for being here in this unpredictable world, in this unique moment, in this precious human body.
  • 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.
  • Well, it starts with being willing to feel what we are going through. It starts with being willing to have a compassionate relationship with the parts of ourselves that we feel are not worthy of existing on the planet. If we are willing through meditation to be mindful not only of what feels comfortable, but also of what pain feels like, if we even aspire to stay awake and open to what we’re feeling, to recognize and acknowledge it as best we can in each moment, then something begins to change.
  • When we sit down to meditate, we connect with something unconditional – a state of mind, a basic environment that does not grasp or reject anything. Meditation is probably the only activity that doesn’t add anything to the picture. Everything is allowed to come and go without further embellishment. Meditation is a totally nonviolent, non aggressive occupation. Not filling the space, allowing for the possibility of connecting with unconditional openness – this provides the basis for real change.
  • Buddhist words such as compassion and emptiness don’t mean much until we start cultivating our innate ability simply to be there with pain with an open heart and the willingness not to instantly try to get ground under our feet. For instance, if what we’re feeling is rage, we usually assume that there are only two ways to relate to it. One is to blame others. Lay it all on somebody else; drive all blames into everyone else. The other alternative is to feel guilty about our rage and blame ourselves.
  • 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 next time you lose heart and you can’t bear to experience what you’re feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in. Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves. This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering‚Äîyours, mine, and that of all living beings.
  • If we run a hundred miles an hour to the other end of the continent in order to get away from the obstacle, we find the very same problem waiting for us when we arrive. It just keeps returning with new names, forms, manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.
  • WE ALREADY HAVE everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves‚Äîthe heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds‚Äînever touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
  • People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That’s not the idea at all. The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn’t understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you’re given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further.
  • Meditation accepts us just as we are-in both our tantrums and our bad habits, in our love and commitments and happiness. It allows us to have a more flexible identity because we learn to accept ourselves and all of our human experience with more tenderness and openness. We learn to accept the present moment with an open heart. Every moment is incredibly unique and fresh, and when we drop into the moment, as meditation allows us to do, we learn how to truly taste this tender and mysterious life that we share together.
  • Take three conscious breaths. Just pause. Let it be a contrast to being all caught up. Let it be like popping a bubble. Let it be just a moment in time, and then go on. Maybe you are on your way to whatever you need to do for the day. You are in your car, or on the bus, or standing in line. But you can still create that gap by taking three conscious breaths and being right there with the immediacy of your experience, right there with whatever you are seeing, with whatever you are doing, with whatever you are feeling.
  • In tonglen practice, when we see or feel suffering, we ‚ÄØbreathe in with the notion of completely feeling it, accepting it, and owning it. Then we breathe out, radiating compassion, lovingkindness, freshness – anything that encourages relaxation and openness.‚ÄØ So you’re training in softening, rather than tightening, your heart. In this practice, it’s not uncommon to find yourself blocked, because you come face to face with your own fear, resistance, or whatever your personal “stuckness” happens to be at that moment.
  • Awareness is the key. Do we see the stories that we’re telling ourselves and question their validity? When we are distracted by strong emotion, do we remember that it is our path? Can we feel the emotion and breathe it into our hearts for ourselves and everyone else? If we can remember to experiment like this even occasionally, we are training as a warrior. And when we can’t practice when distracted but KNOW we can’t, we are still training well. Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what’s going on.
  • We could learn to stop when the sun goes down and when the sun comes up. We could learn to listen to the wind; we could learn to notice that it’s raining or snowing or hailing or calm. We could reconnect with the weather that is ourselves, and we could realize that it’s sad. The sadder it is, and the vaster it is, the more our heart opens. We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea.
  • For one day, or for one day for a week, refrain from something you habitually do to run away, to escape. Pick something concrete, such as overeating or excessive sleeping or overworking or spending too much time texting or checking e-mails. Make a commitment to yourself to gently and compassionately work with refraining from this habit for this one day. Really commit to it. Do this with the intention that it will put you in touch with the underlying anxiety or uncertainty that you’ve been avoiding. Do it and see what you discover.
  • As long as we’re caught up in always looking for certainty and happiness, rather than honoring the taste and smell and quality of exactly what is happening, as long as we’re always running from discomfort, we’re going to be caught in a cycle of unhappiness and discomfort, and we will feel weaker and weaker. This way of seeing helps us develop inner strength. And what’s especially encouraging is the view that inner strength is available to us at just the moment when we think that we’ve hit the bottom, when things are at their worst.
  • It is possible to move through the drama of our lives without believing so earnestly in the character that we play. That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem for us. We feel justified in being annoyed with everything. We feel justified in denigrating ourselves or in feeling that we are more clever than other people. Self-importance hurts us, limiting us to the narrow world of our likes and dislikes. We end up bored to death with ourselves and our world. We end up never satisfied.
  • On the journey of the warrior-bodhisattva, the path goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward turbulence and doubt however we can. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is. At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, companions in awakening from fear.
  • The mind is very wild. The human experience is full of unpredictability and paradox, joys and sorrows, successes and failures. We can’t escape any of these experiences in the vast terrain of our existence. It is part of what makes life grand-and it is also why our minds take us on such a crazy ride. If we can train ourselves through meditation to be more open and more accepting toward the wild arc of our experience, if we can lean into the difficulties of life and the ride of our minds, we can become more settled and relaxed amid whatever life brings us.
  • We think that by protecting ourselves from suffering, we are being kind to ourselves. The truth is we only become more fearful, more hardened and more alienated. We experience ourselves as being separate from the whole. This separateness becomes like a prison for us – a prison that restricts us to our personal hopes and fears, and to caring only for the people nearest to us. Curiously enough, if we primarily try to shield ourselves from discomfort, we suffer. Yet, when we don’t close off, when we let our hearts break, we discover our kinship with all beings.
  • The sad part is that all we’re trying to do is not feel that underlying uneasiness. The sadder part is that we proceed in such a way that the uneasiness only gets worse. The message here is that the only way to ease our pain is to experience it fully. Learn to stay. Learn to stay with uneasiness, learn to stay with the tightening, learn to stay with the itch and urge of shenpa, so that the habitual chain reaction doesn’t continue to rule our lives, and the patterns that we consider unhelpful don’t keep getting stronger as the days and months and years go by.
  • When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.
  • That could be applied to whatever you feel. Maybe anger is your thing. You just go out of control and you see red, and the next thing you know you’re yelling or throwing something or hitting someone. At that time, begin to accept the fact that that’s “enraged buddha.” If you feel jealous, that’s “jealous buddha.” If you have indigestion, that’s “buddha with heartburn.” If you’re happy, “happy buddha”; if bored, “bored buddha.” In other words, anything that you can experience or think is worthy of compassion; anything you could think or feel is worthy of appreciation.
  • Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, and therefore it doesn’t do any good to try to get rid of our so-called negative aspects, because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness. 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. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.
  • The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought. That’s what we’re going to discover again and again and again. Nothing is what we thought. I can say that with great confidence. Emptiness is not what we thought. Neither is mindfulness or fear. Compassion is not what we thought. Love. Buddha nature. Courage. These are code words for things we don’t know in our minds, but any of us could experience them. These are words that point to what life really is when we let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present moment.
  • Over time, as the thinking mind begins to settle [through the practice of meditation], we’ll start to see our patterns and habits far more clearly. Sometimes this can be a painful experience. I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be. By cultivating non-judgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher, and a support, and no longer as an enemy.