The week before my holiday I was very busy. I had to make lots of decisions which involved making a leap into a future that I couldn’t possibly imagine. Amidst all this business, I saw a quote from Pema Chodron on Facebook, on a page I follow updated by one of her students.
As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground- something predictable and safe to stand on- seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.
What a predicament! We seem doomed to suffer simply because we have a deep-seated fear of how things really are. Our attempts to find lasting pleasure, lasting security, are at odds with the fact that we’re part of a dynamic system in which everything and everyone is in process.” Pema Chodron
(Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change)
I laughed in recognition, when I read this, what a wonderful reminder and how true. It seems like such a human trait to want certainty and reliability when in truth no-one knows what will happen next. I shared this on Ashtanga Yoga Liverpool’s Facebook Page, I am sure many of you saw it. I then looked up the book and decided I should read it on my holiday.
I have read a few other books by Pema as well as listening to her teaching . She is a wonderful teacher. As I am sure you noticed from the above passage she has an amazing way with words. I also love how honest she is able to be in her teaching, she admits to her own shortcomings and humanness with great humour so we can all learn from it.
I read Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change whilst on holiday in Lanzarote with my partner. I am so glad that I did because it a wonderfully inspiring and insightful book and it has helped me to stay more present. I was able to let go of all the business back at home and enjoyed all we ever have – the here and now. Sure I drift from time to time and that’s okay, Pema’s words, my meditation and yoga practice help me to come back here.
Pema is a Buddhist nun and her books and teachings are based on Buddhist teachings. She was a student of Chogyam Chungpa who wrote Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, which is absolute classic for anyone interested in a spiritual path. I find her teachings are very compatible and useful for me on my yoga journey and I am sure you would find this too. She has written a lot about how to deal with pain and suffering from the perspective of someone on a spiritual journey.
In Living Beautifully: With Uncertainty and Change she shares her wisdom about 3 Buddhist vows. She explains how traditionally these vows would be taken formally with a teacher. In this book she introduces them in a more general way, as three commitments, so that anyone of any religion or no religion could benefit from these teachings. I guess some people could criticize this approach, saying that it waters down the tradition but as I touched upon in my blog post Why Do You Practice Yoga and Does it Matter? I think that if something benefits you in any way then that’s great and particularly when someone someone as wise and insightful as Pema is sharing. The traditional approach is still there for those who want to take it and maybe more people will be inspired too after reading her book.
In summary the first commitment is about not doing harm to others and ourselves. The second is about keeping our hearts and minds open to the suffering of the world, developing our compassion. The third is about accepting the world as it is. Although these commitments seem much like common sense they are very challenging for any aspirant to keep. Pema gives excellent guidance for dealing with these challenges. I think people sometimes struggle with change because they expect not to fail and yet this is often how we learn and develop the strength for our future. Sometimes we can’t cope with our own or others’ pain and that’s okay. Sometimes we mess up – I know I do and the important thing is to learn from this and recommit to change or to do what we can do today. In this holiday season when many of us have time to reflect on how we want to move forward with our lives, Pema’s new book offers some great ways to embrace life without agenda, to accept it just as it is. You may have eaten too much at Christmas, you may be tired cold, poor or ill, but this is your world to embrace, don’t wait for everything to seem perfect. If we cling to happiness and run from suffering in the search of a perfect world, we may find ourselves living our whole life in our minds. I don’t think that this means you shouldn’t have goals, you are the captain of your ship, not the ocean. Enjoy the journey, embracing your life just as it is.
Have you read anything inspiring recently? Have you read any of Pema Chordan’s Books?