Is unconditional confidence possible? Famed meditation and dharma teacher Pema Chödrön argues that it is, says Vicky Matthews, and that the secret is a surprising one: unconditional confidence comes from being gentle with oneself.
Title: Unconditional Confidence: Instructions for Meeting Any Experience With Trust and Courage
Author: Pema Chödrön
Publisher: Sounds True
Format: 2 CDs (2 hours)
Available from: Sounds True and Amazon.com.
The opportunity to review ‘Unconditional Confidence’ arrived at a time that couldn’t have been more pertinent. It had been the finale of a project I had been involved in, with a final pitch. The whole event had been a high-pressured affair, and the final fruits seemed non-existent. Fear, in the form of blame, was abundant, and my confidence had plummeted. A week later the CDs arrive. Hallelujah!
Pema Chödrön is an American-born Tibetan Buddhist nun, who has authored several books including The places That Scare You and The Wisdom of No Escape. She is resident teacher at Gampo Abbey monastery in Nova Scotia.
The 120 min two CD audiobook offers practical tools for cultivating “tender-hearted bravery” in time of challenge and change, and a three-step method for overcoming fear and uncertainty.
“The root of true confidence,” teaches Pema, “grows from our ability to be in unconditional friendship with ourselves, to train in gentleness, and to trust in our natural intelligence to navigate life.”
The book covers how to move in the direction of freedom through discovering “shaky tenderness,” why being right or wrong doesn’t affect true confidence, steps for learning to “leap into, smile at, and experience all of life” even when fear is present, and how to be kind to yourself, even when you don’t feel kind and keep the root of confidence growing strong.
I appreciated the informal, conversational style and the warm and inspiring insights from her own life. She offers clear and concise instructions.
As I’m listening, I can feel a hard shell of protection around me. It feels like a scary prospect not to be surrounded by this hard shell; to run away and avoid the experience seems like the obvious plan, but what we need to do is be receptive to the experience, tap into the well of tenderness and get to know the nature of fear intimately. Pema explains how meditation is the key: “touch what’s coming up, then let it go.”
I take from “Unconditional Confidence” instructions of what do when fear arises. I am furnishing myself with useful skills to enable me to become a ‘Spiritual Warrior’ and approach fear with the ‘tenderhearted bravery’ she describes.
Chödrön describes situations that are all too familiar, such our culture of distracting oneself from our “ubiquitous nervousness” (or being slightly panicked at all times) so easily with music, drugs, and general distractions. She explains that the root of confidence is gentleness to oneself. Be brave enough to stick with the self through think and thin.
What to do when you panic? Chödrön advises to surround it with loving kindness and an attitude of gentleness.
What wonderful tools to have! I shall be practicing turning towards my fear with a huge open heart, which will hopefully allow confidence to flow into my life!
“Unconditional confidence” is simply faith. Faith is the ability to not panic.
Each morning, I remind myself that absolutely nothing is going to go as I planned it and everything will turn out perfectly… and it does, every day, because nothing that happens is ever less than perfect.
Whatever is, is better than what is not. Therefore whatever is, is the best there can be. It is perfect. Even a broken dish is perfectly broken.
If what I want is different from what is, then what I want is imperfect and I do not need it. I allow only perfection in my life. That’s easy because whatever is, is perfect.
To have whatever you want, simply want whatever you have.
The Barking Unicorn
“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it,” said the Buddha.
Mine is to help you.