Pema Chodron’s Start Where You Are: Shambhala Publications.
Atisha’s Seven Points of Training the Mind are a brilliant contemplative practice—you can buy a little blue book that has all 15 kajillion of his slogans, read one every morning with commentary, and I guarantee you’ll be fully enlightened in one year or your money back (of course, you haven’t paid me anything).
This one sure goes against the ego’s grain—always wanting to push away bad news and cling toward good news, even if the bad is full of truth and the good is BS. So we reverse the flow, give up anticipation of the future, and rest in the moment—from whence all truly good things rise. But don’t take it from me, take it from Pema Chodron, great American Buddhist nun and teacher:
Our next slogan is “Abandon any hope of fruition.” You could also say, “Give up all hope” or “Give up” or just “Give.” The shorter the better.
One of the most powerful teachings of the Buddhist tradition is that as long as you are wishing for things to change, they never will. As long as you’re wanting yourself to get better, you won’t. As long as you have an orientation toward the future, you can never just relax into what you already have or already are.
One of the deepest habitual patterns that we have is to feel that now is not good enough. We think back to the past a lot, which maybe was better than now, or perhaps worse. We also think ahead quite a bit to the future – which we may fear – always holding out hope that it might be a little bit better than now. Even if now is going really well -we have good health and we’ve met the person of our dreams, or we just had a child or got the job we wanted-nevertheless there’s a deep tendency always to think about how it’s going to be later. We don’t quite give ourselves full credit for who we are in the present.
For example, it’s easy to hope that things will improve as a result of meditation, that we won’t have such bad tempers anymore or we won’t have fear anymore or people will like us more than they do now. Or maybe none of those things are problems for us, but we feel we aren’t spiritual enough. Surely we will connect with that awake, brilliant, sacred world that we are going to find through meditation. In everything we read -whether it’s philosophy or dharma books or psychology- there’s the implication that we’re caught in some kind of very small perspective and that if we just did the right things, we’d begin to connect with a bigger world, a vaster world, different from the one we’re in now.
One reason I wanted to talk about giving up all hope of fruition is because I’ve been meditating and giving dharma talks for some time now, but I find that I still have a secret passion for what it’s going to be like when-as they say in some of the classical texts, all the veils have been removed.” It’s that same feeling of wanting to jump over yourself and find something that’s more awake than the present situation, more alert than the present situation. Sometimes this occurs at a very mundane level: you want to be thinner, have less acne or more hair. But somehow there’s almost always a subtle or not so subtle sense of disappointment, a sense of things not completely measuring up.
In one of the first teachings I ever heard, the teacher said, “I don’t know why you came here, but I want to tell you right now that the basis of this whole teaching is that you’re never going to get everything together.” I felt a little like he had just slapped me in the face or thrown cold water over my head. But I’ve always remembered it. He said, “You’re never going to get it all together.” There isn’t going to be some precious future time when all the loose ends will be tied up. Even though it was shocking to me, it rang true. One of the things that keeps us unhappy is this continual searching for pleasure or security, searching for a little more comfortable situation, either at the domestic level or at the spiritual level or at the level of mental peace.
Nowadays, people go to a lot of different places trying to find what they’re looking for. There are 12 -step programs; someone told me that there is now a 24-step program; someday there will probably be a 108-step program. There are a lot of support groups and different therapies. Many people feel wounded and are looking for something to heal them. To me it seems that at the root of healing, at the root of feeling like a fully adult person, is the premise that you’re not going to try to make anything go away, that what you have is worth appreciating. But this is hard to swallow if what you have is…