by Pema Chödrön

  • All activity should be done with one intention: to awaken
  • Turning arrows into flowers…
  • Observe what we do in a state of pain and return to the basic wisdom mind
  • Pleasure, solidified or strong emotions, fear of life and death are woven into the story line, able to control our experience
  • Freedom of nothing solid and secure - egolesness, inquisitiveness, adaptability, playfulness & joy - where all usual schemes fall apart
  • Openness to know our fears - ask questions, see what's happening, acknowledge the need to escape without judgement
  • Mindfulness helps to first see clearly, habits wear out, we are more able to relax
  • Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one - you're the only one who knows when you open or close
  • Don't make gods into demons: don't use your practice to feel like a hero (you're not in battle)
When do we suffer:
  • when we resist impermanence (trying to make life predictable), as if we are separate; the only thing that is predictable is change
  • when we look for happiness in wrong places
  • we continuously escalate dissatisfaction
  • when we label things as stuff we like (pleasure, fame, praise, gain) and dislike (pain, disgrace, blame, loss); we have to get to know both, grow wiser and kinder
  • we can lighten up and do something different - anything out of the ordinary, we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously, instead - pay attention & cheer up.
Four aspirations
  • loving kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity (which persons, animals, plants, situations encourage these qualities?)
Four reminders to return to the present
  • Human birth is a precious opportunity
  • Truth of impermanence (and it's ok to be scared - cheerfully)
  • Law of karma: every action has a result/reaction
  • Futility of samsara: prefer death to life, remember futility of strategies such as laziness, anger, ignoring, attacking, indulging
Equanimity
  • Whatever comes, remain in the middle
  • Be inquisitive of habits
  • Be aware of tenderness of groundlesness
  • Total openness
  • Unbiased state - opening the door, inviting life to visit, slowly - first open it just a crack, close it when needed, in progress
  • May I (you, we they, all beings…) delve in great equanimity, free from passion aggression and prejudice
  • catching ourselves in attraction and aversion, staying in this soft spot, soften before the attraction or aversion hardens
  • relax where you are
Compassion
  • Daring to feel others' pain and staying with emotional distress
  • Start by evoking a feeling of being genuinely touched by suffering:
  • May I (you, we, / loved one, neutral person, problematic person, all beings) wish to be free of suffering and roots of suffering
  • Don't misinterpret, let the world be as it is
  • do not smooth everything out - that's not compassion, that's control
  • drop your agrenda, universal schemes and formulas - admit that you don't know what will help
  • speak with clarity and decisiveness
Joy
  • Not giving up on ourselves
  • Train in rejoicing - mindfulness + appreciation
  • May I (you, we / loved one, neutral, problematic person, all beings…) not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering
Tonglen
  • sending and taking, practicing interconnectedness
  • fear: protecting my heart
  • Inviting the pain in
  • Breathe in anything painful and undesirable, connect with what all humans feel
  • Breathe out anything delightful, relaxing, inspiring
  • Find a sense of kinship with all beings - this pain can benefit others - if I feel it, others don't have to…

= 4 stages of tonglen: =

  • rest your mind in openness of an awakened heart
  • texture: breathe in hot, heavy, sticky, claustrophobic texture, breathe out lightness, coolness, freshness
  • real painful situation: breathe it in; breathe out a situation that is light, releasing
  • all living beings: breathe in all their suffering; breathe out your own delight
When strong emotions arise:
  • drop the story line and feel the wound, the heart
  • don't act out, don't repress
  • things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape; patterns become more porous…
  • change your attitude, but remain natural
  • breathe in unpleasant and unwanted, breathe out pleasant parts of yourself
  • find space to address your own jealousy, pain, anger (…) so you can better understand others
  • if you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained - you can compassionately recognise what's going on
  • our own pain and pleasure can benefit others
  • 3 poisons: passion, aggression and ignorance/denial (craving, aversion, couldn't care less) - you can't make them go away, they are crucial for a warrior
On the spot tonglen:
  • start where you are
  • as soon as uncomfortable emotions come up, breathe them in and imagine others who suffer similarly; breathe out, send out relief
  • if happiness comes, send it out to others, breathe in their current suffering
  • what you do for yourself, you can do for others and vice versa
See what is:
  • acknowledge your prejudice and belief, let it go now
  • leap into the open space and be aware, start taking off armor, feel what you're going through, also the parts that you deem 'unworthy'
  • moments of caring, appreciation, gratitude, music, dance, art, poetry, connecting with sorrow & joy, let go of ourselves, complaints and resentment
  • no one is completely right or wrong
  • be there for others, speak in a way that communicates
  • open further in tonglen: celebrate aspects of ourselves that we despised
  • compassion for ourselves + continuously expanding circles
  • inconvenience is not an obstacle but a challenge
  • How do I communicate so that the space opens up and softens?
  • Don't have expectations and don't expect applause…
6 ways of compassionate living:
  • generosity: letting go, giving - heals grasping
  • patience: heals restlessness; antidote to anger and acting impulsively; relaxing,. allowing in a sense of wander, seeing agitation and letting it go; try doing a tonglen for all beings, sending out a sense of space where other options are possible
  • unconditional wisdom (prajna paramita - gone to the other shore; seeing things as they are and challenging habitual reactions without trying to find a permanent solution)
  • joyful exertion: possibility to let go of perfectionism; eagerness without a goal; enthusiasm, bigger perspective; working appreciatively; how do we connect with inspiration in every moment?
  • discipline: non aggression return to gentleness, balance; not too tight, not too loose; slowing down and being present, so life is not a mess
  • meditation: being there, training in being present, in precision of being (with both pain and pleasure) and letting go; when you let go, blockages dissolve and wisdom becomes available; meditation does not add anything to the picture, but connects with unconditional openness, fostering real change; touch your thoughts and feelings, then let go and rest in wisdom; train when caught off guard, when your life is up in the air. In the morning encourage yourself to keep your mind and heart open, curious… In the evening take time to review and reflect: how have I been open today? Abandon any hope of fruition - don't wish things to change - they won't. Don't wish to get better - you won't Instead relax with what you have and what you are.
An unconditionally open relationship with yourself:
  • cool loneliness - an honesty towards ourselves
  • without a reference point, the middle way
  • in the morning, relax into sadness, longing, stress, alienation, then touch the limitless space of openness of human heart
  • acknowledge 3 difficulties: neurosis as neurosis - we're all stuck; breaking habits - doing something different and letting the storyline go; aspiring to keep up the practice
  • recognise your own confusion and widen the circle to others
Communicating from the heart
  • All activity should be done with the intention to communicate - say, do, think - to move closer, to be less separated
  • Take responsibility for your thoughts, words and actions - and let them all come from the heart
  • See things clearly with gentleness and compassion
  • Keep going forward (do not stay frozen in an identity)
  • the big squeeze: our deals and the reality of what's happening don't match; there is a discrepancy between our inspiration and the situation as it presents itself; the most productive place on the spiritual path is the tension between vision and reality. To deal with it we have to develop curiosity and inquisitiveness, taking an interest in reality, in order to develop ourselves to help others, help others to develop ourselves.
  • When your buttons are pushed you can:
    • repress
    • act out
    • practice tonglen on the spot (keeping your heart open to embarrassment, fear and anger of yourself and others. tonglen widens the time… try it with an enemy: what would it take to make my enemy hear what i'm trying to say? What would it take me to hear what he/she is going to say?
  • always connect your own pain to the pain of all sentient beings
  • make peace with people you dislike, as a catalyst to making friends with ourselves
  • write one word for each of the troublemakers in your life and you will have a list of your own rejected qualities - it is just a projection on the outside world: people who repel us show us aspects of ourselves that we find unacceptable. Other people trigger the karma that we haven't worked out.
  • Seeing obstacles and questions: nothing goes away until it has thought us what we need to know
  • letting go: discovering how we increase our pain: pause/stop, lessen suffering, commitment to deeper levels of letting go
6 ways to be lonely:
  • less desire
  • contentment
  • avoiding unnecessary activities
  • complete discipline
  • relating directly with how things are
  • not seeking companionship of constant conversation with ourselves
3 ways of dealing with chaos:
  • no more struggle: as in meditation, as in any situation: slow down until you're just present, drop emotions and fears and give up the struggle
  • see poison as medicine: use difficult situations to connect with other people
  • regard everything that arises as manifestation of wisdom: world as sacred everything - a method for attaining enlightenment
  • On the spot equanimity: stretching our hearts and noticing our reaction to every person passing without praise or blame; remember that others feel the same way
Truth is inconvenient: relaxing with ambiguity (non-theism)
  • total appreciation of impermanence and change, without a baby-siter
  • whatever you believe - let it go and abide in unconditional openness
  • wholehearted interaction with our world - keep exploring, don't bail out - nothing is as we thought
  • the root of happiness is nothing to hold on to
  • drive all blame into one: the ego - then own it and place it in the cradle of loving kindness
  • drop the object of emotion, do tonglen until the intensity of emotion lessens
  • lean into the discomfort of life - no matter the size of the catastrophe
  • invite unfinished karmic business into tonglen: do not blame the object, or yourself, just breathe in all blame into yourself and breathe out fresh air and space
4 methods for holding your seat when the going gets rough:
  • not setting up the target for the arrow
  • connecting with the heart
  • seeing obstacles as teachers, relax
  • regarding all that occurs as a dream - it is all passing, essenceless

We don't have to strike out or repress, but we can question our assumptions Seek forgiveness, let go of the past, find a fresh start. We can acknowledge how we feel, forgive ourselves for being human, let go and start anew. It is about willingness to be alive rather than seek only harmony: you have to be patient and avoid habitual patterns. Gloriousness and inspiration can cause craving and arrogance. Wretchedness softens us up and humbles us. Pain focuses us until we're just there. It forces us to drop our armour and ask for feedback and refuge, receiving and giving help

Just like me: on the spot compassion
  • aspiration & action: may he/she/they…. It's about contemplation on interconnection
5 strengths
  • cultivating strong determination: finding awakening in discomfort
  • mixing formal practice and 'on the spot' - it awakens the heart
  • cultivating the seed of boddhichitta
  • reproach with kindness and humour (have i ever…)
  • aspiring that suffering diminishes for all

Every act, thought and emotion count. Give yourself a break and stop being predictable. Relate compassionately with what is. Make dharma personal, explore it and relax. Bring everything to the path. Everything has a ground, path and fruition. The path is the goal: not prefabricated, unchartered, moment by moment, evolution of experience - the path is about workability.

In a heightened neurosis patterns intensify - catch scent of groundlesness, grasp, find a new way to criticise ourselves. Look compassionately at what we do: are we using spirituality to grasp?

Compassionate inquiry: not tensing up, but releasing into awakening of what's happening. Developing an appetite for groundlessness.

Always maintain a joyful mind and free flowing openness. Appreciate what we have, the magic of the moment. Year by year, it becomes increasingly accessible.

For more lecture notes see: http://lib.fo.am/lecture_notes