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Giving Our Best with Pema Chodron Excerpt - Part Two

We are pleased to bring you part two of the excerpt from Giving Our Best with Pema Chodron.  To continue with this recorded retreat, Pema Chödrön continues to focus on the enlightened heart and mind.  By nurturing a compassionate attitude in our hearts, we can naturally become more open and present to others and free in our lives, even amidst life’s adversities and fears. 

The Buddha’s don’t need our veneration. They don’t need our bows, and they don’t need our water bowls filled with roses, and they don’t need statues and paintings, and candles, and so forth. We do it actually to become open and receptive and humbled so that we might be able to hear something.  So, anyone sitting here who is saying my husband or wife dragged me to this, and I can’t wait till this talk is over so I can go outside, as I’m talking here, is thinking about what you’re going to do when you go home or how stupid this whole thing is or anything where the analogy often is like a pot with a lid on it.

It's like when you’re trying to pour the teachings in but you can’t, or sometimes they say it’s like a pot with spoiled food in the bottom.  So you pour in something fresh but it all gets soured or it's a pot with a hole in the bottom; it just goes right out.  So, these teachings are to this veneration and also the second verse is to make the listener and the speaker as well, in this case the writer, Shantideva, soften and open so that something can be received and can be of benefit. So, as you listen, there is a lot of instructions on how you might be free of suffering and the cause of suffering, but if you don’t listen, too bad for you.


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Excerpt from Giving Our Best with Pema Chodron

We are pleased to bring you this excerpt from Giving Our Best with Pema Chodron.  Compassion is a skill. You can learn it here and now, and the benefits are vast. In this recorded retreat, Pema Chödrön shows you how—using a text that is very close to her heart: the Buddhist classic known as The Way of the Bodhisattva. Here she focuses on its primary subject, the enlightened heart and mind (bodhichitta), showing us how this awakened state, which often seems infinitely far out of our grasp, is always available to us right where we are. 

So what is bodhicitta? As a working definition of it, I’m going to call it a longing and a commitment to wake up fully and completely, which is the same thing as saying to be free of suffering and the cause of suffering, completely.

And why? In order that we could help other people. And this last part, in order that we can help other people, is very key to bodhicitta because it’s a longing.  A lot of you are probably in professions where you help people. So you set out to want to do that and you’re right up against all your old habits, fear, and loathing. People tell me all the time about, you know, I wanted to save at risk teenagers so I trained and I went into that profession, and, you know, in two days I just like hated most of the kids. So I realized, you know, I had a little work to do if I really wanted to do that and it wasn’t a little work to get rid of all these kids and getting some nice kids in here. Could we just get rid of all these kids and get some that cooperate?

And so, you realize that then the longing and commitment really grows strong to want to clean up your act and that means, you know, to be less reactive and more open, less fearful, less stuck in your old ways that keep getting in the way of you and helping other people. So it’s a longing and that’s really an important word, but also a commitment to actually do what it takes to free yourself of old habits and fears which is the same thing as saying freeing yourself of suffering.

And then to the degree that you can do that, you're right there for those teenagers or husband or wife or child or whoever it might be, your right there for them and of course you might be reacting inside but your right there and they can feel it.  You are there for them and therefore to the degree you can be there, then you can help.


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Start Where You Are - Pema Chodron

Image-PemaStart_Where_You_Are_medium Once again we are pleased to offer a transcribed excerpt from a Pema Chodron audio title.  This is a chapter titled "No Escape, No Problem" from the terrific recording of Start Where You Are.


We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves – the heavy-duty feeling 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. Looking at ourselves this way is very different from our usual habit. From this perspective we don’t need to change: you can feel as wretched as you like, and you’re still a good candidate for enlightenment. You can feel like the world’s most hopeless basket case, but that feeling is your wealth, not something to be thrown out or improved upon. There’s a richness to all of the smelly stuff that we so dislike and so little desire. The delightful things – what we love so dearly about ourselves, the places in which we feel some sense of pride or inspiration – these also are our wealth. With the practices presented in this book, you can start just where you are.


If you’re feeling angry, poverty-stricken, or depressed, the practices described here were designed for you, because they will encourage you to use all of the unwanted things in your life as the means for awakening compassion for yourself and others. These practices show us how to accept ourselves, how to relate directly with suffering, how to stop running away from the painful aspects of our lives. They show us how to work openheartedly with life just as it is. When we hear about compassion, it naturally brings up working with others, caring for others. The reason we’re often not there for others – whether for our child or our mother or someone who is insulting us or someone who frightens us – is that we’re not there for ourselves.


There are whole parts of ourselves that are so unwanted that whenever they begin to come up we run away. Because we escape, we keep missing being right here, being right on the dot. We keep missing the moment we’re in. Yet, if we can experience the moment we’re in, we discover that it is unique, precious, and completely fresh. It never happens twice. One can appreciate and celebrate each moment – there’s nothing more sacred. There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more! 


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Excerpt from "Perfect Just as You Are" with Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron explores limitless potential in this wonderful transcribed excerpt from "Perfect Just as You Are".

So often the question is asked: why are they called limitless? Have you asked that question? Because these four remarkable qualities are, generally speaking, traditionally called the four limitless qualities or the four limitless ones or the four boundless qualities. But boundless or limitless, it’s because we start with what we have, and it’s in a limited form, and that isn’t meant to be a criticism. It’s so valuable to touch in on these qualities as you already experienced them. But it’s limited in the sense that it’s love for one or two people, or four or five people, compassion for one person or three or four, a whole category of people and ability to rejoice in the same way or stay open. Have a sense of equanimity in the same way. It starts limited. I would be surprised if we weren’t all in the limited category. I know I am. 

But the good news is you find what’s limited and you connect with it, and you contact it, and its potential is limitless. Which is to say, what starts as a feeling of free-flowing love for Fido, if you give your compassionate attention to this feeling of free-flowing love, and you give your compassionate attention to when it gets blocked, then basically by working with these two aspects of what we already have and where it’s blocked, the capacity to love is limitless. Which is to say a description of enlightenment would be someone who actually loved everyone and had compassion or could feel the pain of everyone, and rejoice in the good fortune of everyone, and didn’t shut their heart or mind to anyone. That makes you realize how far we are away from that. So we say, we mouth the words “all sentient beings”, but we’re not at all yet. All is a little far away from where most of us find ourselves, all sentient beings. And if you doubt that, all you have to do is, you know, just start going through these categories and see if you actually have love for all sentient beings. How about your boss, or your child, or your parent, or your partner, or the difficult people? As long as it isn’t all, then it’s in some way limited.

So I would say that you could be a pretty wide-awake realized person and still be in the limited category because limitless means all, everyone. And those of you who choose to take the bodhisattva vow at the end of this course, you actually make an aspiration that you could stay that open to all sentient beings. Recognizing that you’re in the limited category right now, you nevertheless make the strong aspiration to be able to move in the direction of a completely open attitude -- being able to love and feel the pain and rejoice in al

So I want to say one last thing and then open it up for some questions. This again comes from Ken McCloud’s book. If you ask the question: where does this love come from? Where does this compassion come from? Where does the ability to rejoice or feel joy come from? Where does equinimity come from? You think I have the answer, don’t you? Well, I actually am going to give an answer, but I’m not sure that I have the answer. I haven’t mentioned the “B” word. The bodhichitta word yet. But these four qualities are, if we cultivate these four remarkable, healing qualities, we are cultivating what’s called bodhichitta. Bodhichitta is a -- traditionally -- it’s said it’s the spontaneous wish that there not be suffering in the world and that people not suffer, and the wish to be able to help alleviate that suffering. And it starts limited. That you wish for certain beings not to suffer and you wish to be able to alleviate the suffering of certain beings but it has this limitless capacity so that the bodhisattva is one which is a synonym for the word warrior. Courageous, compassionate warrior. The bodhisattva is one, who in their full-blown mode, has that wish that all beings not suffer. All. 

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