As I wrote in my book, Living as a River:
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Relating to someone as a “self”—on the basis of how we see them right now—is like seeing a video reduced to a single frame, or seeing a ball hurtling through the air in a freeze-frame photograph. It’s life-denying. It’s a static way of seeing things. In taking a snapshot of a thing we lose its sense of trajectory, the sense that it’s headed somewhere. We’re disconnected from the reality of change and process. But imagine if we could consistently see a person not as a thing but as a process—if we could, at least in our imagination—see that person evolving towards wisdom and compassion.
If we believe that we are not responsible for our mental suffering then we are implying we are helpless.
If we believe everything is permanent then we are implying there is no room for change.
If we believe in a fixed self then we are implying we can not transform ourselves.
If we cling on to these thoughts and think they are facts we will continue to be swamped by the ocean of samsara.
If we can begin to see that our mental suffering arises out of our strong habitual behaviours we will begin to transform ourselves.
Most of us have no end of things to keep up with and sort out. In fact, life sometimes feels bitty, complicated and confusing, and we don’t know how to manage all the demands. Past a certain point we experience stress, feeling that we’ve lost the initiative. Here are some tips on finding an alternative with the help of mindfulness
1. Come back to present moment experience
Mindfulness means coming back to our experience in this moment, starting with simple, observable sensations. That means letting go, for now, of thoughts about the past and the future that can easily feel confusing. Instead, we ask, what’s happening right now in my body, my thoughts and my … Read more »
A lot of people I know have experienced loss recently. Loss is particularly hard when your last words to the deceased person were spoken in anger.
I don’t know whether you’ll get married. I don’t know whether you’ll have children or grandchildren. I don’t know if you’ll be kind. But I know you’ll die. Because that’s something we all do. Death is something we often don’t want to think about, even though it’s inescapable and a simple fact of life.
Hence,in the Buddhist teachings, we find reflections such as this:
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Those who have come to be,
those who will be:
All will go,
leaving the body behind.
The skillful person,
realizing the loss of all,
Pema Chodron was the first North American born woman to become an ordained Bhikkhuni. She teaches in the Shambhala tradition begun by her mentor and teacher Chogyam Trungpa. Meg Wheatley, who assists her teaching on this retreat, has a Ph.D. from Harvard and has long been interested in system dynamics. She is a prolific author and has traveled to every continent to learn and teach about how human systems function properly or fail. Both women have sound instruction to offer concerning how to navigate beautifully in life — this life that can only be impermanent.
The focus of the retreat is a modern-day Hopi prophecy. Ani Pema indicated that the prophecy was requested from Hopi … Read more »
In the Google Plus Community that I’ve set up for people who have a connection with my work (my classes, my CDs, MP3s, books, Wildmind, etc.) we discuss our practice. It’s turned out to be a very supportive and inspiring community. My own practice has benefitted a lot, and as I put it this morning in a post there, “We’re all each other’s teachers.”
Someone in the community said they’d been reflecting on impermanence, and that led me to write a few words about the various ways that I reflect about impermanence in meditation. Here’s what I wrote:
I reflect on impermanence at different degrees of resolution. Here they are, roughly in order:
The other day I posted a news article about various ideas for replacing the ancient Buddhist statues of Bamiyan, Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. One of our Facebook commenters had the following to say:
I am so grateful for the Taliban destroying these statues, what an amazing lesson in the impermanent nature of reality. The people who did this are our greatest teachers, firstly for helping us to practice patience with our negative feelings of anger and secondly to show us how attached we can become to impermenant objects.
There’s certainly a traditional teaching in Buddhism of having gratitude toward our enemies for giving us an opportunity to practice patience. This … Read more »
Between November 2010 and February 2011, New Zealand, a country of 4 million people, suffered two of the biggest disasters in its history.
The Chilean mining disaster had many of us riveted to our TV screens as miner after miner was brought to safety, having been trapped underground for 69 days. This was not to be the case in New Zealand. After an explosion at the Pike River Mine in New Zealand’s South Island, anxious families, buoyed by the Chilean experience, waited for long days and nights for a breakthrough that might bring their men home. None of the 29 miners and contractors survived.
Only three months later, Christchurch, New Zealand’s third largest city, was … Read more »
I love you and one day I will die. I can not escape it. Death comes to everyone, including me.
Death is unavoidable; it will come to all of us, today, tomorrow, next month, next year.
Death is unavoidable; even I will die. Even you will die. Everyone we know will die.
Death is unavoidable, you and I may die before our parents. You and I may die before our children. You and I may die before our friends. You and I may die before our loved ones. You and I may die after our loved ones.
Death is unavoidable; this is the only thing we can guarantee in life. During this next year someone … Read more »
Some of us are able to acknowledge these less attractive aspects without being unduly fazed. Others tend to cultivate strategies to help hide the cracks. Yet others convince themselves that their weaknesses are inherent aberrations, with this view then becoming a rationale for indulging in aberrant behaviour. It is the last of these views that I tend to work with in addiction.
Some of us convince ourselves that we are such a waste of space that really, we should commit ourselves to a life of substance-induced mayhem or simply rid the rest of … Read more »