Highlighting The Pocket Pema Chödrön: Edited by Eden Steinberg

“Virginity is a mistake and a waste, and a courtesan is of more value to mankind than a nun.”

Antonio Beccadelli.

HFE: Well, here’s Pema Chödrön to officially say “Fuck you, Antonio. Clearly, they didn’t have quality nuns like me back in your day.”

Shadow of Chaos: Isn’t this book already a collection of highlights?

HFE: Yes. But we’re highlighting it anyway! There’s a lot of paragraphs in this book. Internetizens prefer 1-3 sentence soundbites.

Shadow of Chaos, judgy. Shadow no longer wonders why everyone’s as bratty as Faenor: I see.

HFE: I challenged myself to grab a quote from each lesson.

Shadow of Chaos: And how did that go?

HFE: Read on and find out! Instead of page numbers, I listed “chapter” numbers instead.

Shadow of Chaos picks up the list. Daer eyes lock on to the highlights: Noted.

1 The noble heart

When inspiration has become has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of pain itself.

2 We already have everything

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.

3 The path of the bodhisattva-warrior

A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next.

4 Right here is a good place to start

You might think that there are no others on the planet who hate themselves as much as you do. All of that is a good place to start. Just where you are―that’s the place to start.

5 Life is a good teacher

Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about.

6 Why meditate?

This complete acceptance of ourselves as we are is called maitri, or unconditional friendliness, a simple, direct relationship with the way we are.

7 Find out for yourself

In all kinds of situations, we can find out what is true simply by studying ourselves in every nook and cranny, in every black hole and bright spot, whether it’s murky, creepy, grisly, splendid, spooky, frightening, joyful, inspiring, peaceful, or wrathful.

8 Difficulty is inevitable

What causes misery is always trying to get away from the facts of life, always trying to avoid pain and seek happiness―this sense of ours that there could be lasting security and happiness available to us if we could only do the right thing.

9 Our wisdom is always there

Even when our neurosis feels far more basic than our wisdom, even when we’re feeling most confused and hopeless, bodhichitta―like the open sky―is always here, undiminished by the clouds that temporarily cover it.

10 We don’t need to change ourselves

Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.

11 Our birthright

When we cling to thoughts and memories, we are clinging to what cannot be grasped. When we touch these phantoms and let them go, we may discover a space, a break in the chatter, a glimpse of open sky.

12 Move toward difficulty

We can use everything that occurs―whether it’s our conflicting emotions and thoughts or our seemingly outer situation―to show us where we are asleep and how we can wake up completely, utterly, without reservations.

13 Fundamental richness

When we are able to be there without saying, “I agree with this,” or “I definitely don’t agree with that,” but just be here very directly, then we find fundamental richness everywhere. It is not ours or theirs but is available always to everyone.

14 Cultivate loving-kindness toward yourself

The qualities that are the toughest to be kind to are the painful parts, where we feel ashamed, as if we don’t belong, as if we’ve just blown it, when things are falling apart for us. Maitri, or loving-kindness, means sticking with ourselves when we don’t have anything, when we feel like a loser. And it becomes the basis for extending the same unconditional friendliness with others.

15 A more adventurous way to live

To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is.

16 When you open up to life as it is

When you open yourself up to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid.

17 Don’t let life harden your heart

Right there, I received this pith instruction: we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have that choice.

18 Our human situation (the three marks of existence)

Everybody knows the pain of getting what we don’t want: saints, sinners, winners, losers. I feel gratitude that someone saw the truth and pointed out that we don’t suffer this kind of pain because of our personal inability to get things right.

19 Unconditional well-being

In the beginning it might feel like sadness or a shaky feeling, accompanied by a lot of fear, but your willingness to feel the fear, to make fear your companion, is growing. You’re willing to get to know yourself at this deep level. After a while this feeling begins to turn into a longing to be fully human and to live in your world without always having to shut down or close off when certain things come along.

20 Developing true courage

Instead of asking ourselves “How can I find security and happiness?” we could ask ourselves, “Can I touch the center of my pain? Can I sit with suffering, both yours and mine, without trying to make it go away? Can I stay present to the ache of loss and disgrace―disappointment in all its many forms―and let it open me?”

21 Nothing is fixed

Thoughts and emotions rise and fall unceasingly. When we’re thinking that we’re competent or hopeless―what are we basing it on? On this fleeting moment? On yesterday’s success or failure?

22 Getting the knack of hopelessness

To think that we can finally get it all together is unrealistic.

23 This brief lifetime

How are we going to spend this brief lifetime? Are we going to strengthen our well-perfected ability to struggle against uncertainty, or are we going to train in letting go? Are we going to hold on stubbornly to “I’m like this and you’re like that”?

24 Dissolving our self-importance

The fixed idea that we have about ourselves as solid and separate from each other is painfully limiting. It is possible to move about the drama of our lives without believing so earnestly in the character that we play. That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem for us.

25 Recognizing our kinship with others

One reason we train as warrior-bodhisattvas is to recognize our interconnectedness―to grow in understanding that when we harm another, we are harming ourselves.

26 Discover the genuine heart of sadness

The more you look, the more you find just a feeling of tenderness tinged with some kind of sadness. This sadness is not about somebody mistreating us. This is inherent sadness, unconditioned sadness.

27 We start with ourselves

We can learn to act and think in ways that sow seeds of our future well-being, gradually becoming more aware of what causes happiness and what causes distress. Without loving-kindness for ourselves it is difficult, if not impossible, to genuinely feel it for others.

28 Happiness without a hangover

We’ve discovered that the continual search for something better does not work out. This doesn’t mean that there are suddenly flowers where before there were only rocks. It means we have confidence that something will grow there.

29 Rejoice in ordinary life

The key is to be here, fully connected with the moment, paying attention to the details of ordinary life. By taking care of our ordinary things―our pots and pans, our clothing, our teeth―we rejoice in them. When we scrub a vegetable or brush our hair, we are expressing appreciation: friendship toward ourselves and toward the living quality that is found in everything.

30 Overcoming unworthiness

Even if you’ve already taken the bait and feel the familiar pull of self-denigration, marshal your intelligence, courage, and humor in order to turn the tide.

31 Beyond right and wrong

Compassionate action, being there for others, being able to act and speak in a way that communicates, starts with seeing ourselves when we start to make ourselves right or make ourselves wrong. At that particular point, we could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where we could live. This place, if we can touch it, will help us train ourselves throughout our lives to open further to whatever we feel, to open further rather than shut down more.

32 Overcoming self-deception

As we train in clarity and steadfastness, we see things we’d prefer to deny―judgmentalness, pettiness, arrogance. These are not sins but temporary and workable habits of mind. The more we get to know them, the more they lose their power.

33 Into the demon’s mouth

Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him.

34 Edging toward the open state

When we start to interrupt our ordinary ways of calling ourselves names and patting ourselves on the back, we are doing something extremely brave. Slowly we edge toward the open state, but let’s face it, we are moving toward a place of no handholds, no footholds, no mindholds.

35 Have no expectations, just be kind

He said that setting goals for others can be aggressive―really wanting a success story for ourselves. When we do this to others, we are asking them to live up to our ideals. Instead, we should just be kind.

36 Difficult people help us to learn and grow

Every little thing caused him to spin off into a tantrum.

37 At the beginning and at the end

If you fulfilled your aspiration, even once, rejoice in that. If you went against your aspiration, rejoice that you are able to see what you did and are no longer living in ignorance.

38 No happy ending

There isn’t going to be some precious future time when all losse ends will be tied up.

39 Sharing the heart

The essence of this practice is that we breathe into our heart with the recognition that others also feel this. It’s a way of acknowledging when we are closing down and of training to open up.

40 Embracing our differences

We are different; we are very different from each other. One person’s idea of what is polite is someone else’s idea of what is rude. In some cultures it’s considered rude to belch when you’re eating, and in others it shows that you enjoyed your meal.

41 Being there for others

Really communicating from the heart and being there for someone else―our child, spouse, parent, client, patient, or the homeless woman on the street―means not shutting down on that person, which means, first of all, not shutting down on ourselves. This means allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and not pushing it away. It means accepting every aspect of ourselves, even the parts we don’t like.

42 Being big and small at the same time

So now the message was that I should just be ordinary, not set myself up or be the teacher. But as soon as I was getting comfortable with being humble, I would be asked to do something special that only big deals did.

43 When anger arises, remember to pause

You refrain from acting, stop talking to yourself, and connect with the soft spot. But at the same time you are completely and totally honest with yourself about what you are feeling. You’re not suppressing anything; patience has nothing to do with suppression.

44 Gloriousness and Wretchedness

One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.

45 The perfection of patience

We can create the ideal situation in which we have a very high opinion of ourselves, but how do we do when it comes to the big squeeze, the collision of our vision with the reality of the situation?

46 How to defeat fear

If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power.

47 We have met the enemy―and the friend

We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves.

48 Connect with unconditional openness

Meditation is probably the only activity that doesn’t add anything to the picture. Everything is allowed to come and go without further embellishment.

49 The daring of having no enemies

Everything is ambiguous; everything is always shifting and changing, and there are as many different takes on any given situation as there are people involved. Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel secure and comfortable.

50 Mirror, mirror on the wall

Nevertheless, I think we all know there’s no point in blaming the mirror when it shows you your own face, and there’s certainly no point in breaking the mirror.

51 Everything has to go

From when we were very young we’ve had this longing to see those mountains in the distance and experience that big sky and the vast ocean, but somehow we got trapped in our nest, just because we forgot that we know how to fly.

52 The journey goes down, not up

At our own pace, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, our companions in awakening from fear.

53 When things fall apart

We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved.

moodboard. transluscent raven diving at wintery forests.

captioned: [Ravens] have the time of their lives in the winter, when the wind gets much stronger and there's lots of ice and snow. They challenge the wind. Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape.

54 Being gentle with ourselves

This compassion, this clarity, this openness are like something we have forgotten. Sitting here being gentle with ourselves, we’re rediscovering something.

55 We never know

Letting there be room for now knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do what we think is going to help. But we don’t know.

56 Opening the door to life

You relate with what begins to happen when you’re not protecting yourself so much. Then gradually, you become more curious than afraid. To be fearless isn’t really to overcome fear, it’s to come to know its nature.

57 Seek long-term relief

When you get to tell someone off, you might feel pretty good for a while, but somehow the sense of righteous indignation and hatred grows, and it hurts you.

58 Am I going to add to the aggression?

All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever.

59 Wakefulness is found in pleasure and pain

We’re just being with our experience, whatever it is. If our experience is that sometimes we have some kind of perspective, and sometimes we have none, then that’s our experience. If sometimes we can approach what scares us, and sometimes we absolutely can’t, then that’s our experience.

60 Be grateful to everyone

Without others provoking you, you remain ignorant of your painful habits and cannot train in transforming them into the path of awakening.

61 There is no cure for hot and cold

After we have died, the ebb and flow will still continue. Like the tides of the sea, like day and night―this is the nature of things. Being able to appreciate, being able to look closely, being able to open our minds―this is the core of maitri.

62 Look for gaps

These fleeting moments of no-big-deal me, no internal conversations, no frozen opinions, are very simple yet powerful. The utter freshness of just being present introduces us to unshakable confidence: a lionlike pride that refuses to buy into any negative or limiting story lines.

63 Don’t cause harm

The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.

64 Loneliness

When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.

65 Let the things that enter your life wake you up

You can leave your marriage, you can quit your job, you can only go where people are going to praise you, you can manipulate your world until you’re blue in the face to try to make it always smooth, but the same old demons will always come up until finally you have learned your lesson, the lesson they came to teach you. Then those same old demons will appear as friendly, warmhearted companions on the path.

66 Train in the middle way

We are encouraged not to judge whatever arises in our mind. In fact, we are encouraged not to even grasp whatever arises in our mind. What we usually acknowledge as good or bad we simply acknowledge as thinking, without all the usual drama that goes along with right and wrong.

67 Obstacles can be our teachers

What may appear to be an arrow or a sword we can actually experience as a flower. Whether we experience what happens to us as obstacle and enemy or as teacher and friend depends entirely on our perception of reality. It depends on our relationship with ourselves.

68 Perfection is like death

We are killing the moment by controlling our experience. Doing this is setting ourselves up for failure, because sooner or later, we’re going to have an experience we can’t control: our house is going to burn down, someone we love is going to die, we’re going to find out we have cancer, or somebody’s going to spill tomato juice all over our white suit.

69 Pointing at your own heart

Whether we’re eating or working or meditating or listening or talking, the reason that we’re here in this world at all is to study ourselves.

70 Space permeates everything

Things happen all the time that open up the space. This spaciousness, this wide-open, unbiased, unprejudiced space, is inexpressibly good and sound.

71 The reason we don’t open our hearts

To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.

72 They’re up against what you’re up against

When he heard himself saying her words, he got the message. He understood what she was up against, and it humbled him.

73 The big squeeze

There’s a discrepancy between your inspiration and the situation as it presents itself, the immediacy of the situation. It’s the rub between those two things―the squeeze between vision and reality―that causes you to grow up, to wake up to be 100 percent decent, alive, and compassionate.

74 Moving beyond self-protection

Curiously enough, if we primarily try to shield ourselves from discomfort, we suffer. Yet when we don’t close off and we let our hearts break, we discover our kinship with all beings.

75 Bodhichitta is always available

Whenever we let go of holding on to ourselves and look at the world around us, whenever we connect with sorrow, whenever we drop our resentment and complaint, in those moments bodhichitta is here.

76 Remaining steady

Just experience the tug and relax into the restlessness of the energy, without fanning this ember with thoughts. If we stay present with the rawness of our direct experience, emotional energy can move through us without getting stuck. Of course, this isn’t easy and takes practice.

77 There are no promises

When we are training in the art of peace, we are not given any promises that because of our noble intentions everything will be okay.

78 Holding on causes suffering

When we feel inadequate and unworthy, we hoard things. We are so afraid―afraid of losing, afraid of feeling even more poverty-stricken than we do already.

79 Patience is the antidote

By patience, we do not mean endurance―as in “grin and bear it”. In any situation, instead of reacting suddenly, we could chew it, smell it, look at it, and open ourselves to seeing what’s there.

80 Gain and victory to others

With anything that you want, you begin to develop the attitude of wanting to share it instead of being stingy with it or fearful around it.

81 The state of nowness

We are given changes all the time. We can either cling to security, or we can let ourselves feel exposed, as if we had just been born, as if we had just popped out into the brightness of life and were completely naked.

82 Abandon hope

Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment.

83 Positive shame

Negative shame is accompanied by guilt and self-denigration. It is pointless and doesn’t help us even slightly. Positive shame, on the other hand, is recognizing when we’ve harmed ourselves or anyone else and feeling sorry for having done so.

84 Relax as it is

We can stop struggling with what occurs and see its true face without calling it the enemy. It helps to remember that our spiritual practice is not about accomplishing anything―not about winning or losing―but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is.

85 Go to the places that scare you

We’re trying to learn to not split ourselves between our “good side” and our “bad side,” between our “pure side” and our “impure side.” The elemental struggle is with our feeling of being wrong, with our guilt and shame at what we are. That’s what we have to befriend.

86 A process of surrendering

The journey to enlightenment involves shedding, not collecting.

87 Our predicament is workable

The instruction is to relate compassionately with where we find ourselves and to begin to see our predicament as workable.

88 An open-ended approach

It’s about keeping your heart and your mind open to whatever arises, without hope of fruition. Problem solving is based first on thinking there is a problem and second on thinking there is a solution. The concepts of problem and solution can keep us stuck in thinking that there is an enemy and a saint or a right way and a wrong way.

89 The path is uncharted

The source of wisdom is whatever is happening to us right at this very instant.

90 Now is the time

We can aspire to be kind right in the moment, to relax and open our heart and mind to what is in front of us right in the moment. Now is the time. If there’s any possibility for enlightenment, it’s right now, not at some future time.

91 Living at a crossroads

Basically, the instruction is not to try to solve the problem but instead to use it as a question about how to let this very situation wake us up rather than lull us into ignorance.

92 A magical golden key

Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with pur craziness and our confusion, and therefore it doesn’t do any good to try and get rid of our so-called negative aspects, because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness.

93 Tigers above, tigers below

It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.

94 We all have what it takes

We all need support and encouragement to be aware of what we think, what we say, and what we do. Notice your opinions.

95 Ravens in the wind

Where I live on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, I see that the wilder the weather is, the more the ravens love it. They have the time of their lives in the winter, when the wind gets much stronger and there’s lots of ice and snow. They challenge the wind.

96 Wholehearted attention

Being ignorant about emotions only makes matters worse; feeling guilty or ashamed of them does the same. Struggling against them is equally nonproductive. The only way to dissolve their power is with our wholehearted, intelligent attention.

97 Feel the sadness without drowning in it

If you can live with the sadness of human life (what Rinpoche often called the tender heart or the genuine heart of sadness), if you can be willing to feel fully and acknowledge continually your own sadness and the sadness of life, but at the same time not be drowned in it, because you also remember the vision and power of the Great Eastern Sun, you experience balance and completeness, joining heaven and earth, joining vision and practicality.

98 Living without an agenda

Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right? Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are?

99 Impermanence is real

“What is this fear? Where did it come from? What am I scared of?”

100 Condition yourself toward wakefulness

Every time you’re willing to acknowledge your thoughts, let them go, and come back to the freshness of the present moment, you’re sowing seeds of wakefulness in your unconscious. After a while what comes up is a more wakeful, more open thought.

101 Right there in the moment of sadness

Rather than persecuting yourself or feeling that something terribly wrong is happening, right there in the moment of sadness and longing, could you relax and touch the limitless space of the human heart?

102 The law of karma

Even though we may feel very heavyhearted, instead of eating poison, we can go out and buy the best filet mignon or whatever it might be―in my case, the best peach.

103 Keep standing up

The waves just keep coming, but each time you get knocked down, you stand up and keep walking. After a while, you’ll find that the waves appear to be getting smaller.

104 Recognizing suffering as suffering

Spinning off is neither good nor bad; it’s just something that happens as a reaction to the pleasure and pain of our existence. We can simply see that, without judgement or the intention to clean up our act.

105 Enlightenment is just the beginning

Enlightenment, being completely awake, is just the beginning of fully entering into we know not what.

106 Approaching life as an experiment

If it’s time for something to flourish, it will; if it’s not time, it won’t.

The trick is not getting caught in hope and fear. We can put our whole heart into whatever we do; but if we freeze our attitude into for or against, we’re setting ourselves up for stress.

107 Always maintain a joyful mind

Have a sense of gratitude for everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.

108 We can help this troubled world

When the stakes are so high, do we have the luxury of dragging our feet?

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