Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I'm reading Start Where You Are, A Guide to Compassionate Living, by Pema Chödrön. As the last few days have been a little sad for me, coloured by some of life's disappointments, I was struck again by the synchronicity of books that fall into my hands.

Using the lojong teachings to see how we can use our difficulties and problems to awaken our hearts, Chödrön stresses repeatedly throughout this little book, that it is unconditional compassion for ourselves that leads naturally to unconditional compassion for others. By starting where we are, in the middle of whatever frustrations and difficulties of our lives right now, especially in those situations where we might prefer to blame, criticize or ignore, we can use the lojong teachings to relate to ourselves and others with an open heart and an open mind, allowing ourselves the space, softness and compassion to relax. In emphasizing the enormous space in which we live our everyday lives, the sense of separation, solidity and isolation is revealed as a painful misunderstanding that keeps us from realizing our kinship with all beings, everywhere.

As I have been reading along, I have been laughing at myself quite a bit, how often I take an idea, a teaching, and resolve to do this or that in a new way, my stream of thoughts solidifying "into a heavy story line" that seems to be taking me elsewhere, only to have Chödrön gently remind me to label that "thinking". "The absolute quality of bodhichitta can never be pinned down. If you can talk about it, that's not it.....Whenever you come up with a solid conclusion, let the rug be pulled out....At this point, for most of us, our thoughts are very tied up with our identity, with our sense of problem and our sense of how things are....Use the labeling and use it with great gentleness as a way to touch those solid dramas and acknowledge that you just made them all up with this conversation you're having with yourself."

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