Friday, May 9, 2008

Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron

I just finished a book called "Start Where You Are - a guide to compassionate living" By Pema Chodron.

She is a Buddhist nun living and teaching at Gampo Abby, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In this book she demonstrates how to use traditional Tibetan Buddhist slogans in everyday life to more fully develop courage and compassion for ourselves and others. Some of them were fairly clear and straight forward like:

"Always maintain a joyful mind"
"Be grateful to everyone"
"Be patient"
"Don't expect applause"

But there were many others that I took my time with, often going over her points again and again to try and get a more clear understanding.

"Abandon any hope of fruition"
"Examine the nature of unborn awareness"
"Sending and taking should be practiced alternately"
"Drive all blames into one"

I haven't studied Buddhism at all really but I have taken an interest lately in its philosophy and practice, some of which seem almost counter to what one would normally think. It revolves around a central teaching that goes like this: if it hurts, breathe it in; if it's pleasant send it out. Okay, but what about my own poor self? I have my own hurts to deal with; I can't take on everyone else's too. Pema explains this by saying that we all need to soften ourselves so that we can more fully appreciate other people and become as one because underneath our thin veneers, our egos, we are all the same. Being individuals has a place but we spend so much time and energy on our 'individualness' that we lose compassion for each other. It sounds reasonable but but but - I have so many more questions. Thankfully, or maybe not, she says that there isn't something that you finally 'get' - it's elusive and sinks in like rain on dry earth. We are addicted to thinking everything to death (heh, no kidding) but she says we have to practice relaxing our minds and just be. 


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