Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Loving Pema Chodron
Love is a pretty big word. And we no doubt make it small by applying it to things like chocolate. (I don't actually believe this. I put it in there to raise my righteousness quotient. Chocolate is an elevation of love. We just don't like to admit it.) Oh, anyway. Love is good. Let's go ahead and spread it around, even on the trivial.
Pema, though, Pema is not trivial.
Here's why I love Pema though we've never met and likely never will.
The other day I was agitated to a degree I almost never achieve. Anxious. Unstrung. The physical experience was not unrelated to pure, curled-up, 'possum-in-the-headlights panic. The encouraging things I usually say to myself when I feel like that (Shut up, Ann, you dope. Sit down. Chill out.) were not working. So, I figured: Go to the grocery store, Ann. That will fix you right up. Silly moi.
So semi-fear-frozen in my car, I remembered that in my iPhone I had a brand new recording of a retreat Pema Chodron led on The Three Commitments at Gampo Abbey. (Doesn't that sound so lovely and calm? I don't think it really is. At least not all the time. People are there. Enough said.) So I found it (Woo! It had downloaded. Technology works sometimes.)
Right off the bat, Pema started talking about the essential groundlessness of the human experience. And death, of course. You'd think this would have been the straw that drove me right off the road. But no. The Truth, the Real Truth, can be da balm. Even if the real truth is "Change Happens." Even when the change that happens is not that cool, uplifting Obama Change we still believe in. ( I do. I do. You go, Mr. President.) Even if the real truth is "Death Happens." Because it appears that is so.
Pema also holds out the interesting idea that emotions and states of mind clock in at about 1 1/2 minutes per :-) :-( .... :-) :-( That's us there to the left of this sentence. Happy. Sad. Worried. Crazy. Cheered. Pissed. All over the place. And, listening there in my car, I noticed that, oops, the unstrungness that I was so INTERESTED in, had crept away without even saying hasta la vista, Annie.
My interpretation of some Pema advice I've encountered from time to time is that if you approach every moment and its mood or its thoughts with a spirit of gentle curiosity -- if you don't try to push it away or shut it down or exchange it for a mood or a thought you might prefer, you can do this sort of surfing thing. You can ride the present moments, the very NOWs of your life, staying awake, not being in a war with whatever's there, tending to your balance, being kinder than is my innate nature.... If you can do this, you can then experience it All.*
And, in this moment of calm reflection -- which, as noted, is now and not necessarily a minute and a half from now -- I ask myself what better could we reasonably hope for in a world of change and inevitable death than to experience our lives moment by moment? To live while we're alive.
This is probably the most ridiculous interpretation of Pema's teachings ever, ever, ever in the world. However, one of the things I love about her is her generosity and compassion for those who try.
Thanks, Pema. Love you, XOXOXO Annie
*An important corollary, which I also believe Pema would agree with, is that when you find yourself UNDER your Surfboard of Life and skinning your nose on a coral reef, you should be neither surprised, dismayed nor disempowered. Just try to re-find your board and climb back on, all the while being very Pema-Kind-and-Forgiving to yourself.
Posted by Annie at 8:47 AM