Pulling Out the Rug. {Pema Chödrön Book Club}

Via on Aug 8, 2012

“The armor we erect around our soft hearts causes a lot of misery.

But don’t be deceived, it’s very transparent. The more vivid it gets, the more clearly you see it, the more you realize that this shield—this cocoon—is just made up of thoughts that we churn out and regard as solid. The shield is not made out of iron. The armor is not made out of metal. In fact, it’s made out of passing memory.”

(Start Where You Are: “Pulling Out the Rug.”)

So in the last chapter, we talked about letting go of the big deals we make about everything. Regard all dharmas as dreams, don’t take ourselves so seriously. And now, in case you didn’t get it, we’re going to talk about it some more. I know I didn’t get it. In fact, in this chapter, Pema reminds us that every time we think we’ve “got it,” we definitely don’t:

“The absolute quality of bodhichitta can never be pinned down. If you can talk about it, that’s not it. So if you think that awakened heart is something, it isn’t. It’s passing memory. And if you think this big burden of ego, this bog monster cocoon is something, it isn’t. It’s just passing memory. Yet it’s so vivid. The more you practice, the more vivid it gets. It’s a paradox—it can’t be found, and yet it couldn’t be more vivid.”

I feel like we have a choice here. We can feel frustrated by this idea, or liberated by it. Personally, I find it liberating. I am never going to have this all figured out. I am never going to get “there” because “there” isn’t real. Let’s be here, be in the shaky, insecure groundlessness honestly and completely. It’s a good place to be. It’s the only real place to be. The point of meditation and spirituality isn’t to turn life into a happy sunflower covered Pinterest board. The point is to be with whatever is going on, whether it’s sunflowers or poison ivy, and be fully present without trying to suppress it or cling to it.

I consider myself a positive person. I try to appreciate the good in others, in what life brings my way. But more important than being positive, is being genuine. It’s much more enriching to realize that things are temporary than to say “it’s all good.” Sometimes it isn’t all good! And even when it’s fan-freaking-tastic, it’s temporary. It’s all fleeting, which is a comfort when it hurts and a reminder to enjoy when it’s great.

“This approach is very different from practicing affirmations, which has become a popular thing to do in some circles. Affirmations are like screaming that you’re okay in order to overcome the whisper that you’re not. That’s a big contrast to actually uncovering the whisper, realizing that it’s all 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.”

Pull out that rug.

Let go.

Be gentle to yourself.

Lighten up, sweetheart, it’s no big deal.

Like elephant spirituality on Facebook.

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. Her love of words is boundless, but she knows that many of life’s best moments are completely untranslatable. When she is not writing, you may find her practicing yoga, devouring a book, playing with her children, planting dandelions, or dancing barefoot with her heart on her sleeve. She is madly in love with life and does not know how this story ends; she’s making it up as she goes. Kate is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Heart Medicine, Kate's book on writing, is now available on Amazon.com You can follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter

1,339 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

13 Responses to “Pulling Out the Rug. {Pema Chödrön Book Club}”

  1. “Meditation isn’t about getting rid of thought – you’ll think forever.”

    In this statement, I get the feeling of the impermanence. Don’t worry about the thoughts, they’ll keep coming. Just like experience, they keep coming and going. The less we hang on to them, the more we can enjoy them and move on. The proverbial rug doesn’t the need the grippy pad under it, cause we’re just going to fly off it anyway!

  2. Paul Russell says:

    I feel close to the lojong teachings, so this book is a special one to me. "Examine the nature of unborn awareness." That sounds deep. I don't imagine anything about it. I like how Pema Chodron points out that the word examine is key. it's not like were looking for an answer to solve a problem and thereby feel certainty. Rather were questioning the certainty of our answers relative to our apparently solid existence. Look how the tables have turned! Questioning answers instead of answering questions? Cool, right?! Still, let's refrain from nailing the table down in its newly reversed position where our answers are questioned into conditioned ideas of emptiness and uncertainty. "Self-liberate even the antidote." It's so funny! Nowhere to turn. Nowhere to not turn. It seems like an irreconcilable paradox, like trying to get a grown up goose out of a glass bottle without breaking the bottle or killing the goose. I don't know what to do except laugh and take Pema Chodron up on her advice to lighten up. "Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence." I don't imagine anything about that either.

    • I like that Paul. It's not about looking for an answer to solve a problem, but about being curious, examining what's going on and then continuing to question rather than trying to nail it down as the answer.

  3. Lynn B says:

    I absolutely love what Pema wrote about affirmations (your last quote). After years and years of practicing affirmations and still feeling like I was somehow judging myself and never quite thinking that things were okay it is quite liberating to release the thoughts as passing memories. It's hard to explain but easier for me to feel. It's great to want to be happy all the time but how would we know happiness without having felt sadness. Hot without cold, wet without dry…But also, that any and all are okay because it is more important to live in the moment than to wish for it to be different. The affirmations, to 'speak things into existence', is to live as if the present isn't real because it doesn't contain what we want disconnects us. So many thoughts…I'm trying to stay present. =)

    • I agree, Lynn. It feels like a paradox, in a way. I think we can look at inspirational quotes and things and feel encouraged, but the point isn't to escape or wish away reality.

  4. [...] Pulling Out the Rug. {Pema Chödrön Book Club} (elephantjournal.com) [...]

  5. [...] Pulling Out the Rug. {Pema Chödrön Book Club} (elephantjournal.com) [...]

  6. [...] Pema Chödrön Book Club returns this Tuesday with discussion of chapters 6, 7, & 8 of Start Where You Are. [...]

  7. [...] Pulling Out the Rug. {Pema Chödrön Book Club} ~ Kate Bartolotta via Elephant Journal [...]

  8. [...] reveals who we are. It’s how we deal when things are off-balance, how we stay present with groundlessness that counts—in yoga and everything [...]

Leave a Reply