Pema Chodron should be considered a spiritual teacher for anyone. Whether they are aspiring to have one, they already have one or don’t desire one at all. In her book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron exposes the overwhelming potential for happiness, wisdom and courage. She explains how one can experience all of these even during the most painful of circumstances. She introduces us to the face that there is an ultimate opportunity for the right of happiness that is right within our reach and she explains how we usually miss the opportunity for that happiness. She conveys to us that we miss that opportunity for happiness because we are all caught up in the attempts to escape the pain, fear and suffering in our lives. Her stellar story, which should and probably does guide many lives, demonstrates to us how we can utilize all of our painful emotions and develop them into compassion and courage, wisdom and understanding, and ways of communication that open up to more opportunities for openness and true interaction with others.
She gives us practices for reversing our negative everyday habits and methods for operating with stressful chaotic situations. She shows us ways to develop our painful and fearful emotions into compassionate and energetic feelings that manifest themselves into social action. She worked for 20 years to develop the practices that she preaches as a Tibetan Buddhist nun, while drawing in from her earlier years of experience and feelings as an everyday housewife and mother. She gives whole-hearted and thoughtful advice and wisdom that drew from all of her experience in her life. Her deep-seated and kind hearted advice establishes the grounds for what to do when lings begin to fall apart in our live and go against the normalcy in our environments and expectations. The instruction and assistance that she gives us is meant to offer us comfort and is meant to challenge our actions in our daily lives to live deeply, whole-heartedly and contribute to creating a more loving, peaceful and honest world.
She teaches us how to hone in on our painful emotions in order to gain substantial amounts of wisdom and compassion for ourselves so that we many bring it outwards to our neighbors and the world around us. When we have the courage to step into the uncharted waters of our mental and emotional territory and relax, we can discover the happiness and contentment that does not need to depend on the world around us but the world in our minds that we can control and make our own. In her story she shows discuss and depicts many of the aspects of her life that she has experienced. She also discusses how a man named Trungpa Rinpoche taught her all about Buddhism and deeper was or meditation.
“Fear is a universal experience. Even the smallest insect feels it. We wade in the tidal pools and put our finger near, the soft, open bodies of sea anemones and they close up. Everything spontaneously does that. It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold onto. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” As I read this passage writing by Pema, I was astounded. I had never thought of our lives like this. It was completely true. As we enter the unknown in our lives we never just jump at the chance.
We have to stop and think to ourselves if we should keep going or if we should turn around. We all have fear and we may externally deal with fear in different ways however, we are all the same on the inside when we deal with fear. We all wish that we could curl up into a little ball and make the fear go away. Fear itself is always a result of the unknown. When you are afraid of something, it is because we don’t really know what to do or what is going on. I agree with what she says. It isn’t a terrible thing to feel fear. We all experience fear in our lives and we should embrace it and hone in on our fear so that we can make the unknown the known.
If you walked up to someone on the street and asked them what they were afraid of it would be a form of something that is to them, the unknown. It is universal. Not everyone has the same fear, but we all have one. She uses the metaphor of wading in the tide pools but not going all the way in and the sea anemone closes up as someone gets close to it. When you think about it, as you go to the swimming pool in the summer, you don’t see many people just jump in. They all test the water and are afraid to get splashed because they aren’t used to the water and the way it feels. In a way, we are all like the sea anemone. We close up when we are pushed into experiences that we aren’t yet comfortable with. But we need to continue to be like the anemone and open up.
“I have a friend dying of AIDS. Before I was leaving for a trip, we were talking. He said, ‘I didn’t want this and I hated this, and I was terrified of this. But it turns out that this illness has been my greatest gift.’ He said, ‘Now every moment is so precious to me. All the people in my life are so precious to me. My whole life means so much to me.’ Something had really changed, and he felt ready for his death. Something that was horrifying and scary had turned into a gift.” I have come across a few people in my life that have HIV or AIDS and they all say the same thing. This quote hit me really hard because it was so personal. If you ever have a conversation with someone who has dealt with this for most of their life, they explain to you that the fear is gone. They had fear. A lot of fear in fact.
But eventually, all of that fear went away and they began to accept what had happened to them and they realize that this is the path that they were meant to lead. I once listened to a man teach a seminar on HIV and AIDS. At the end of the seminar, he told us that he himself had full blown AIDS. He told us that yes he would eventually die and he wasn’t afraid of that. He was afraid of not being able to educate and prevent someone from making some of the same mistakes that he had made before he died. I fell that this was the best way for Pema to express the being able to hone in on your fear and turn it into happiness. When I read that part of this story, I truly understood what she was trying to tell us. We all have fear but if we can accept that fear and project it in a different way, we can have happiness…
Courtney from Study Moose
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