I can’t say enough good things about Pema Chodron.
I know there are a lot of wonderful spiritual writers out there, especially of the Buddhist variety, but Pema’s voice just seems to resonate with me (and a lot of people) the most.
Reading her gentle yet fierce teachings is medicinal. I find myself returning to her classics again and again. I have honestly enjoyed and benefited from every book of hers that I have read. I often feel like I might as well just highlight the entire thing!
Sharing a quote by her last weekend at a yoga retreat renewed my desire to spread the Pema love.
So, without further ado, here are of my favorite pearls of wisdom from Ani Pema; the first 11 are excerpted from The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times and the latter six came from How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind.
May they be of benefit!
1. “When we don’t run from everyday uncertainty, we can contact bodhichitta.”
2. “That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence.”
3. “In the most ordinary terms, egolessness is a flexible identity. It manifests as inquisitiveness, as adaptability, as humor, as playfulness. It is our capacity to relax with not knowing, not figuring everything out, with not being at all sure about who we are—or who anyone else is either.”
4. “By becoming intimate with how we close down and how we open up, we awaken our unlimited potential.”
5. “To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity.”
6. “Whatever happens, our commitment is to use it to awaken our heart. As one of the slogans says, ‘All activities should be done with one intention.’ That intention is to realize our connection with all beings.”
7. “To the extent that we stop struggling against uncertainty and ambiguity, to that extent we dissolve our fear.”
8. “We love to talk about vast, open mind, completely clear and spacious. But can we abide in the openness that presents itself when the bottom falls out of our dream?”
9. “It takes some training to equate complete letting go with comfort. But in fact, ‘nothing to hold on to’ is the root of happiness. There’s a sense of freedom when we accept that we’re not in control.”
10. “The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than to buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid. Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere only makes our hearts more tender. When we are brave enough to stay in the middle, compassion arises spontaneously.”
11. “If we continue to practice this way over the months and years, we will feel our hearts and minds grow bigger. When people ask me how long this will take, I say, ‘At least until you die.’”
12. “We all have the seeds of basic goodness within us—we only have to nourish them.”
13. “You don’t need to struggle to not have thoughts because that’s impossible.”
14. “Let your experience pass through like stars in the vast sky of your mind. Nothing has to be too big of a problem.”
15. “Enlightenment—full enlightenment—is perceiving reality with an open, unfixated mind, even in the most difficult circumstances. It’s nothing more than that, actually.
16. “There’s the space that seems to be out there, like the sky and the ocean and the wind, and there’s the space that seems to be inside. We could let the whole thing mix up. We could let the whole thing just dissolve into each other and into one big space. Practice is about allowing a lot of space. It’s about learning how to connect with that spaciousness that’s inside, and the spaciousness that’s outside. It’s about learning to relax, soften, and open—to connect with the sense that there’s actually a lot of room.”
17. “Meditation gives us the opportunity to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on. The meditative space is like the big sky—spacious, vast enough to accommodate anything that arises.”
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Editor: Cat Beekmans
Photo: elephant archives