Pema Chödrön

I am up late.

A dear friend is going through a tough crisis.

I told them whenever I feel stuck or in need of a lift, I get inspired by watching those who are out in the world helping others. And Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön is one of those I watch.

When we began COLLINS, our first small crew and I spent three days with her at a retreat up in the Hudson River Valley. Her books, like her lectures, are inspiring. So tonight, here’s a more pointed dose of her wisdom and insights. I hope they might help my friend tonight. And maybe, others too

  1. “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”

  2. “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

  3. “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.”

  4. “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

  5. “The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”

  6. “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”

  7. “Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”

  8. “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. They come together and they fall apart.”

  9. “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”

  10. “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

  11. “I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us…It was all about letting go of everything.”

  12. “Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I choose to live and die in fear? ”

  13. “A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ”

  14. “We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.”

  15. “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”

  16. “If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart…”

  17. “Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.”

  18. “We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.”

  19. “As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success, we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves, nor will we find compassion.”

  20. “No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear…the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves, but by all means make it go away.”

  21. “We are all capable of becoming fundamentalists because we get addicted to other people’s wrongness.”

  22. “The more we witness our emotional reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain.”
  23. “At the root of all the harm we cause is ignorance.”

  24. “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

  25. “Without giving up hope—that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be—we will never relax with where we are or who we are.”