“We already have everything we need.
There is no need for self-improvement.
All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.”
(From chapter one: “No Escape, No Problem”)
I started exploring Buddhism when I got to college, but at first it seemed somewhat mysterious, elusive and for people much calmer and more together than me. Life’s chaotic sometimes. I can’t be a real Buddhist until I get my shit together and things calm down, right?
Waiting until things calm down to start or deepen a spiritual practice is kind of like waiting until you are in shape to start exercising. All that chaos? It’s good news. It is the practice. It’s where you start.
There are lots of must-read Buddhist classics, but the thing that I love about reading Pema is that it’s like talking to a favorite aunt who gives you great advice. She’s conversational and every day. There are many wonderful teachers who were raised in the Buddhist tradition—even in the West (I think they call them dharma brats…we might have one of those kicking around here at elephant...I forget).
But not Pema. Pema was an ordinary American woman who came to Buddhism during a difficult time in her life after all the positivity-self-help-new-age bullshit didn’t work. She didn’t wait until she had her act together, had mastered all the lojong and tamed her thoughts. She just started.
Start Where You Are is a short book, but one worth taking your time with and chewing on. It’s also worth re-reading (and chiming in on our discussion) if you’ve read before, but it’s been awhile. It’s a great introduction to traditional Buddhist slogans or lojong, yet accessible and relevant whatever your other beliefs may be.
On Tuesday, July 24th, we will begin with a discussion of the preface and the first chapter: “No Escape, No Problem.”
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