August 24, 2011

Pema Chodron vs. Self-Help.

“When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they’re going to improve.” ~ Pema Chodron

Maitri: loving-kindness toward ourselves.

Click here for video.

You’re basically good. So am I. We all are.

The Cosmic Joke is, of course, when we stop thinking so much about ourselves, we do improve—life becomes more vivid and genuine:

“We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves.”


This is why we call our Religion / Spirituality / Philosophy department “Non New Agey Spirituality.” Yes, we’d be fine with a more elegant term. But I appreciate the humor and precision of what it’s called, now, too.


“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.”

Cosmic Joke, via Trungpa Rinpoche:

The attempt to confirm our solidity is very painful. Constantly we find ourselves suddenly slipping off the edge of a floor which had appeared to extend endlessly. Then we must attempt to save ourselves from death by immediately building an extension to the floor in order to make it appear endless again. We think we are safe on our seemingly solid floor, but then we slip off again and have to build another extension. We do not realize that the whole process is unnecessary, that we do not need a floor to stand on, that we have been building all these floors on the ground level. There was never any danger of falling or need for support. In fact, our occupation of extending the floor to secure our ground is a big joke, the biggest joke of all, a cosmic joke. – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

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elephantjournal Oct 12, 2014 9:56pm

"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."

~ Pema Chodron

Jen Jun 19, 2014 5:50pm

Pema Chodron changed my life. Seriously. If you haven't read 'When Things Fall Apart' or 'The Wisdom of No Escape,' do it. NOW. 😉

Realizing that you're okay just as you are is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It took me many years of suffering to realize that this "perfect self" without any problems I was imagining did not exist. As soon as I did, a huge weight was lifted and my life was finally able to begin. Because the more time you spend trying to achieve something that doesn't exist, the less time you have to appreciate what does 🙂

Sophia Apr 19, 2014 7:35pm

Endless wisdom from Pema Chodron. What a lady 🙂
Meditation does teach us this acceptance (of ourselves and all the things we feel) eventually (may take a long time though), so even if people begin meditating in order to improve themselves and later come to realise that that is not the goal, it might not have been such a bad place to start…?

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.