The Work of my Inspiration: Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron is a Tibetan Buddhist monk who converted to Buddhism in her 30’s after her husband left her.  She was a New Jersey School teacher and mother of two children and recalls hitting rock bottom after her divorce from her second husband.  It was at this time in her life where she came across an article by Tibetan Buddhist Trungba Rinpoche about how suffering is a calling from our souls to use our darkness to learn and grow rather than to run from it.  Her work can be found all over the internet along with books and recording of her teachings at a variety of schools across North America.  Her work has truly changed my life.  One of my favorite quotes by her is “Every Moment is the perfect teacher” because it reminds me to get out of my negative thought cycle, to breathe, and to come back into my body.  It is also a reminder to take time to show loving action towards myself (through doing something relaxing for myself each day) and to also taking loving action towards others in my life (particularly those closest to me). 

The power is in our thoughts and actions.  We manifest and create our own destiny by choosing how to respond to things that come up in our environment as well as things that come up from within our bodies.  One of the most remarkable things Pema Chodron teaches is our feelings are not our destiny.  Just because we feel low or sad does not mean we will fall apart if we choose to stay with those feelings.  Our ego tries to protect us from feeling these dark feelings but without darkness we would not have light.  Both things coexist within us and both things have to be honored if we are to love ourselves.  Truly if you wish for something to happen you can make it happen but you must believe in it and take action towards making it happen without expectations on how it should happen or what it will feel like.  This is a lot harder said than done but it is all about your attitude.  Otherwise it just won’t happen for you.
Below is an excerpt by Pema Chodron on gratitude:

The slogan ‘Be grateful to everyone’ is about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected. Through doing that, we also make peace with the people we dislike. More to the point, being around people we dislike is often a catalyst for making friends with ourselves. Thus, “Be grateful to everyone.”

If we were to make a list of people we don’t like – people we find obnoxious, threatening, or worthy of contempt – we would find out a lot about those aspects of ourselves that we can’t face. If we were to come up with one word about each of the troublemakers in our lives, we would find ourselves with a list of descriptions of our own rejected qualities, which we project onto the outside world. The people who repel us unwittingly show the aspects of ourselves that we find unacceptable, which otherwise we can’t see. In traditional teachings on lojong it is put another way: other people trigger the karma that we haven’t worked out. They mirror us and give us the chance to befriend all of that ancient stuff that we carry around like a backpack full of boulders.

“Be grateful to everyone” is getting at a complete change of attitude. This slogan is not wishy-washy and naive. It does not mean that if you’re mugged on the street you should smile knowingly and say “Oh, I should be grateful for this” before losing consciousness. This slogan actually gets at the guts of how we perfect ignorance through avoidance, not knowing we’re eating poison, not knowing that we’re putting another layer of protection over our heart, not seeing the whole thing.

“Be grateful to everyone” means that all situations teach you, and often it’s the tough ones that teach you the best. There may be a Juan or Juanita in your life, and Juan or Juanita is the one who gets you going. They’re the ones who don’t go away: your mother, your husband, your wife, your lover, your child, the person that you have to work with every single day, part of the situation you can’t escape. There’s no way that someone else can tell you exactly what to do, because you’re the only one who knows where it’s torturing you, where your relationship with Juan or Juanita is getting into your guts.

In our own lives, the Bengali tea boys are the people who, when you let them through the front door of your house, go right down to the basement where you store the things you’d rather not deal with, pick out one of them, bring it to you, and say “Is this yours?”

-Mercedes Jet, Contributing Author

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