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Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chödrön
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“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”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“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.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“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.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“But as we let go of our repetitive stories and fixed ideas about ourselves--particularly deep-seated feelings of "I'm not okay"--the armor starts to fall apart, and we open into the spaciousness of our true nature, into who we really are beyond the transitory thoughts and emotions. We see that our armor is made up of nothing more than habits and fears, and we begin to feel that we can let those go.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, and to all people, experiencing everything totally without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Once we have the fixed idea “this is me,” then we see everything as a threat or a promise—or something we couldn’t care less about.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Leonard Cohen once said about the benefits of many years of meditation, “The less there was of me, the happier I got.” Letting”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“The root of these fundamentalist tendencies, these dogmatic tendencies, is a fixed identity—a fixed view we have of ourselves as good or bad, worthy or unworthy, this or that. With a fixed identity, we have to busy ourselves with trying to rearrange reality, because reality doesn’t always conform to our view.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Awakening is not a process of building ourselves up but a process of letting go. It’s a process of relaxing in the middle—the paradoxical, ambiguous middle, full of potential, full of new ways of thinking and seeing—with absolutely no money-back guarantee of what will happen next.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“So the challenge is to notice the emotional tug of shenpa when it arises and to stay with it for one and a half minutes without the story line. Can you do this once a day, or many times throughout the day, as the feeling arises? This is the challenge. This is the process of unmasking, letting go, opening the mind and heart.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“May we all learn that pain is not the end of the journey, and neither is delight. We can hold them both—indeed hold it all—at the same time, remembering that everything in these quixotic, unpredictable, unsettled and unsettling, exhilarating and heart-stirring times is a doorway to awakening in sacred world.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“our tendencies with their habitual story lines are described as seeds in the unconscious. When the right causes and conditions come together, these preexisting propensities pop up like flowers in the springtime. It’s helpful to contemplate that it’s these propensities and not what triggers them that are the real cause of our suffering.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“The problem with most people is that they are always trying to give out the bad and take in the good. That has been the problem of society in general and the world altogether.” The time has come for us to try the opposite approach: to take in the bad and give out the good. Compassion is not a matter of pity or the strong helping the weak; it’s a relationship between equals, one of mutual support. Practicing tonglen, 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.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Refraining is very powerful because it gives us an opportunity to acknowledge when we’re caught and then to get unstuck.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“For one thing, I let go much more easily: knowing that it’s all passing so quickly makes everything I encounter exceedingly precious. I know that every taste, every smell, every day, every meeting, every parting, could be my last. When I see people bent over, shuffling along on walkers, I know what could be ahead for me. I’ve begun to identify with the very elderly so intimately that instead of recoiling, I feel immense compassion.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“But we don’t have to close down when we feel groundlessness in any form. Instead, we can turn toward it and say, “This is what freedom from fixed mind feels like. This is what freedom from closed-heartedness feels like. This is what unbiased, unfettered goodness feels like. Maybe I’ll get curious and see if I can go beyond my resistance and experience the goodness.” Buddhism holds”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“If you acknowledge what’s happening and refrain from acting, that opens up some space in your mind. Clinging to views and opinions, thinking you’re always right and lording it over others, keeps you endlessly stuck.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Good or bad, happy or sad, all thoughts vanish into emptiness like the imprint of a bird in the sky.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark. —AGNES DE MILLE”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Taking the . . . vow to help others implies that instead of holding our own individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to the world that we are living in. It means we are willing to take on greater responsibility, immense responsibility. In fact, it means taking a big chance. —CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“One popular way of relating to physical pain is mindfulness meditation. It involves directing your full attention to the pain and breathing in and out of the spot that hurts. Instead of trying to avoid the discomfort, you open yourself completely to it. You become receptive to the painful sensation without dwelling on the story your mind has concocted: It’s bad; I shouldn’t feel this way; maybe it will never go away.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“It points out how we continually try to avoid the uncertainty inherent in our condition, how we continually try to get solid ground under our feet. The eight worldly concerns are presented as four pairs of opposites: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, fame and disgrace, praise and blame.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Most of us have physical or mental conditions that have caused us distress in the past. And when we get a whiff of one coming—an incipient asthma attack, a symptom of chronic fatigue, a twinge of anxiety—we panic. Instead of relaxing with the feeling and letting it do its minute and a half while we’re fully open and receptive to it, we say, “Oh no, oh no, here it is again.” We refuse to feel fundamental ambiguity when it comes in this form, so we do the thing that will be most detrimental to us: we rev up our thoughts about it. What if this happens? What if that happens? We stir up a lot of mental activity. Body, speech, and mind become engaged in running away from the feeling, which only keeps it going and going and going. We”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Ego or fixed identity doesn’t just mean we have a fixed idea about ourselves. It also means that we have a fixed idea about everything we perceive. I have a fixed idea about you; you have a fixed idea about me. And once there is that feeling of separation, it gives rise to strong emotions. In Buddhism, strong emotions like anger, craving, pride, and jealousy are known as kleshas—conflicting emotions that cloud the mind. The kleshas are our vehicle for escaping groundlessness, and therefore every time we give in to them, our preexisting habits are reinforced. In Buddhism, going around and around, recycling the same patterns, is called samsara. And samsara equals pain. We keep trying to get away from the fundamental ambiguity of being human, and we can’t. We can’t escape it any more than we can escape change, any more than we can escape death. The cause of our suffering is our reaction to the reality of no escape: ego clinging and all the trouble that stems from it, all the things that make it difficult for us to be comfortable in our own skin and get along with one another. If the way to deal with those feelings is to stay present with them without fueling the story line, then it begs the question: How do we get in touch with the fundamental ambiguity of being human in the first place? In fact, it’s not difficult, because underlying uneasiness is usually present in our lives. It’s pretty easy to recognize but not so easy to interrupt. We may experience this uneasiness as anything from slight edginess to sheer terror. Anxiety makes us feel vulnerable, which we generally don’t like. Vulnerability comes in many guises. We may feel off balance, as if we don’t know what’s going on, don’t have a handle on things. We may feel lonely or depressed or angry. Most of us want to avoid emotions that make us feel vulnerable, so we’ll do almost anything to get away from them. But if, instead of thinking of these feelings as bad, we could think of them as road signs or barometers that tell us we’re in touch with groundlessness, then we would see the feelings for what they really are: the gateway to liberation, an open doorway to freedom from suffering, the path to our deepest well-being and joy. 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. So the challenge is to notice the emotional tug of shenpa when it arises and to stay with it for one and a half minutes without the story line. Can you do this once a day, or many times throughout the day, as the feeling arises? This is the challenge. This is the process of unmasking, letting go, opening the mind and heart.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“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 its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for this is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. 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 its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Without the words, without the repetitive thoughts, the emotions don’t last longer than one and a half minutes.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“The practice is to train in not following the thoughts, not in getting rid of thought altogether. That would be impossible. You may have thought-free moments and, as your meditation practice deepens, longer expanses of time that are thought free, but thoughts always come back. That’s the nature of mind. You don’t have to make thoughts the villain, however. You can just train in interrupting their momentum. The basic instruction is to let the thoughts go—or to label them “thinking”—and stay with the immediacy of your experience. Everything in you will want to do the habitual thing, will want to pursue the story line. The story line is associated with certainty and comfort. It bolsters your very limited, static sense of self and holds out the promise of safety and happiness. But the promise is a false one; any happiness it brings is only temporary. The more you practice not escaping into the fantasy world of your thoughts and instead contacting the felt sense of groundlessness, the more accustomed you’ll become to experiencing emotions as simply sensation—free of concept, free of story line, free of fixed ideas of bad and good.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“Still, the tendency to scramble for security will try to reassert itself and gain some ground. We can’t underestimate the very real (and very fleeting) comfort it provides. The meditation teacher Tara Brach, in her book Radical Acceptance, describes a practice she uses at such times. It’s based on the Buddha’s encounters with his nemesis, Mara, a demon who kept appearing to tempt the Buddha to give up his spiritual resolve and go back to his old unaware ways. Psychologically, Mara represents the false promise of happiness and security offered by our habitual responses. So whenever Mara appeared, often with beautiful women or other temptations in tow, the Buddha would say, “I see you, Mara. I know you’re a trickster. I know what you’re trying to do.” And then he’d invite his nemesis to sit down for tea. When we’re tempted to go back to our habitual ways of avoiding groundlessness, we can look temptation in the eye and say, “I see you, Mara,” then sit down with the fundamental ambiguity of being human without any judgment of right or wrong.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
“As you’re meditating, memories of something distressing that happened in the past may bubble up. It can be quite freeing to see all of that. But if you revisit the memory of something distressing over and over, rehashing what happened and obsessing on the story line, it becomes part of your static identity. You’re just strengthening your propensity to experience yourself as the one who was wronged, as the victim. You’re strengthening a preexisting propensity to blame others—your parents and anyone else—as the ones who wronged you. Continuing to recycle the old story line is a way of avoiding fundamental ambiguity. Emotions stay on and on when we fuel them with words. It’s like pouring kerosene on an ember to make it blaze. Without the words, without the repetitive thoughts, the emotions don’t last longer than one and a half minutes.”
Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change

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