August 24, 2011

Pema Chodron vs. Self-Help.

We buy plastic, and toss it, and forget it. We drive and fly without offsetting. We read about whatever the Virgo moon means for our relationship, but don’t take climate change seriously.

Our life is selfish. But it doesn’t have to be. Joy—true, flowing joy—can be ours, if we learn to let go of false positivity and face the (wo)man in the mirror, with gentleness.

“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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Marta Luzim Jul 29, 2019 12:31pm

YES. I am circling back right now. 100% radical self acceptance. Hardest lesson ever practiced. I love Pema. I read When things fall Apart when it first came out. A lesson still learning…

Jodi Ryan Jul 29, 2019 9:40am

We all need to circle back to just this, again, and again, and again.

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

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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.