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PEMA CHODRON’S MAITRI

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I continue to be still and sit twice a day. An Easter gift.  15 minutes, 30 minutes…whatever. The important thing is I am trying not to read but sit still as I gather “ALL OF ME.” This feels right. This idea of “everything belongs” as Rohr put it. Not rejecting any part of my past. I read a line that went like this, “When was the last time you visited yourself?” When I sit I call it home-visit.

Sitting still is not just really about the self but being with God within me, in the innermost silent part of my awareness. It is not self-preoccupation because when I am silent I know I am with God and not just with myself.   Pema might not be saying this in her writings but this is how it is for me, in my own personal experience of sitting down which I call prayer.

The purpose of sitting/meditating/centering/praying is not to go on a peace ride. It is not to feel good, holy or to escape from real life situations. Slowly I am beginning to understand that nothing will really exempt anyone from the “restlessness/big and small sufferings” of life. No meditation can make our lives problem-free but it can help us see things clearly.

According to Pema Chodron in her book, The Places that Scare You, seeing things clearly is one among the four qualities of maître we cultivate as we sit still or practice silent prayer or meditation.  The four qualities are:

Steadfastness

Clear seeing

Experiencing our emotional distress

Attention to the present moment

What is MAITRI?

Pema wrote that Maitri means unconditional friendliness or being totally relaxed with ourselves. It is relating with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception.  All that makes us feel ugly, small and dirty are now seen in a different light. Self-forgiveness begins. Unhealthy choices in the past towards others and the self is seen with a deeper acceptance and understanding. We realized more and more that  everyone is doing the best they can with the inner resources that they had and that includes ourselves.  It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that  we can let go of harmful patterns in our lives and allow lasting transformation to happen.

Maitri is HONORING our lives, the choices we made and not made.  Maitri is freeing ourselves from our own self-criticisms and negative beliefs that make us shameful and feeling unworthy.   It is givin ourselves permission to be exactly who we are including all the blunders, mistakes, immoralities, weaknesses, failures and all that we see as wrong episodes of our lives in the past and even at present.

Another word I can use for maître is self-compassion. It is a relationship with one’s self where there is nothing to defend or to protect.  This idea of maitri or unconditional acceptance of ourselves embraces all that we are without excuses, without needing to explain, without taking issue with anything or anyone

Maitri is allowing the self to come out from the cave of shame, anger, blame and unforgiveness.   It is our awakening to the truth that all along our sanity and well-being depends on our being our own primary support and best friend.

This stance to life does not fix all our angst, restlessness and issues but it provides a sense of safety and acceptance to be just who we really are. There are no harsh expectations, no demands, and no conditions. There is no need to control.

We begin to be more patient and understanding with our own self as we continue to sit still (pray.)  It is a new experience of knowing our vulnerabilities, all that we believe is fragile within us, all that makes us doubt in our own and in other’s goodness, all that makes life fearful, groundless and unsafe and yet we can be calm, open and kind towards our own self and others.

Maitri is the spirituality of POPE FRANCIS. It is the essence of his “Who are we to judge?” statement.

Maitri is Mercy. God’s face is MERCY.

All along this is what Pema and all other spiritual teachers are telling us: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love others.    This love is a merciful, compassionate love and it starts with our selves.

I often forget this.

Hopefully I can begin again.

 

GROUNDLESSNESS

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Pema Chodron’s “groundlessness” is St. John of the Cross’ “dark night.”

When we experience groundlessness or dark night we are given the gift to awaken to the truth of life’s essential realities. What once gives us a sense of safety or peace is shattered, lost or acutely seen in its truth. Impermanent. Fleeting. Superficial. Unreliable. Undependable.   Groundlessness/dark night sets in.  This is universally labeled as SUFFERING.

No one will ever be exempted.

In our younger years or before we got interested to read spirituality books or have our “awakenings” – we go through life believing that all pain, difficulties, restlessness, uneasiness, conflicts – all that makes one ill at ease – has to be solved, fixed, do away with, before we can finally begin to arrive “there.” To that serene, peaceful life.

In my readings of Pema, which I find strong resonance with St.  John of the Cross, I am seeing more clearly that suffering cannot be completely removed from our everyday life (though there are  unnecessary, man-made petty sufferings which can be avoided.)

Pema’s words – befriending our personal demons –  speaks to me of facing our fears and understanding where they are coming from and learning skills to healthily manage them, instead of assuming that our fears are to be seen as enemies and “bad” parts of our personality.

I have met and sat with my personal demon countless times.  Psychology labels them as “weaknessness” or “learned/acquired dysfunctional reactions to life’s miseries.”  These are my autopilot response   when I feel groundless.  It is my common “escape route,” my complusive reactions to find safety, my habitual way of relating with insecurities.

Befriending our personal demons is the initial step in loosening its grip on us.

Pema’s echo of the ancient teaching of unconditional friendliness towards oneself is similar to Jesus’ “To love others as we love ourselves.”  Love of self is “maîtri – unconditional friendliness towards one’s self.”

The journey truly begins with one’s inner life and not on what is outside.

FEAR is always inside us. It is this fear, this sense of groundlessness, which makes us relate to life on a perpetual ill at ease-vigilant-alarmed mode. Fear blocks our path to “friendliness” towards our own self.

I will continue reading Pema, with focused this time. I want what she has understood and lived and is teaching as a Buddhist nun. I also want to continue seeing the pattern of similarities of my Catholic faith and the Buddhist lessons on putting order into disordered lives.

GIVING VOICE

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“We often underestimate the power of giving voice, but it is real and sustaining….and it works its healing, not so much by being heard as by the fact that in giving voice to what lives within, even through the softest whisper, we allow the world of spirit to soften our pain….it is the speaking of one’s heart that makes a human being human. For even if no one hears us, it is the act of speaking that frees us.” – Mark Nepo

In choosing to have a blog I am embracing this power of giving voice to who I am. To write for me is to pray. It is truly healing and it feels like I am “standing up and showing up” for my one and only grateful journey at this side of life.

Thanks to Mark Nepo.

Mark Nepo, Pema Chodron and Brene Brown are my current teachers. Their writings and videos in You Tube resonates with me. Mark Nepo’s “Book of Awakening,” Pema’s “When “Things Fall Apart” and Brene’s “Gift of Imperfection” are more than enough materials to help me seek clarity. Truth is one. I also see their wisdom parallel to my Catholic religion’s saints especially St. Therese. The writers I mentioned: a brain tumor survivor, a Buddhist Nun and  a Shame Resilience advocate speaks in a way closest to where I am. Maybe it’s the language or the fact that all these three are still alive and I resonate with them better than a century ago mystic.

But I am sure St Therese does not mind. As Parker Palmer suggests, the aim of all spiritual paths, (from Mark Nepo’s book also) no matter the origin or the rigors of their practice, is to help us live more fully in the lives we are given.

There was a time when I felt uneasy that my readings are buffet. There seems to be this inner critic telling me that I must only focus on the Scriptures and writers from our tribe. But eventually this inner critic kept quiet. I felt freer to read whoever I want to read. There were no restrictions. I am grateful I did.

My readings are helping me live more fully although I must admit that it’s a rise and fall pattern. And most of the time I live in my head instead of showing up in the real world.

And I tell myself it is okay. I am still alive. I still have a chance to begin again.

INCOGNITO

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Ani Pema Chödrön

Ani Pema Chödrön (Photo credit: albill)

I have decided to make this public as I am going to write incognito anyway. There is something I can’t quite capture in word in making these thoughts public.

I already made two short posts. It took me hours last night and another two hours this morning doodling on what theme to use. I wanted this to be minimalist  and with a readable font.

I am happy with what I found.

I will write. I noticed last night how I was feeling so enthusiastic as I went up with an intention to create a blog. A year ago I already dabbled on this but  once the project mode wears out I quit. Hopefully with this one I will stay the course.

I want to write because I believe I have the gift. I also want to  find  my  writing voice.

Writing and allowing others to read what I have written is like standing naked and vulnerable to all sorts of harm. My approval issue is a huge deterrent in my desire to write. It’s as if I do not have the right to write.

This morning I attempted to begin again with SILENT PRAYER. I sat there and started breathing. It went fine.  It was good enough. This afternoon I will be there again.

It was my re-reading of Pema Chodron’s “When Things Fall Apart” which drew me to pray again. I was in my early twenties when I learned about silent prayer. Decades have passed and I have to admit that I have neglected this area of my life in a huge scale. I don’t pray anymore. It is the “structured prayer”  which carries me even if sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me also. It feels irrelevant.

There are times when I enter into it but most days I just wait for it to finish. Dryness. Blah mode. But I still attend and I try my best to be regular and punctual. It feels right to be there even if sometimes my mind is orbiting the universe.

I am learning that dryness and all that makes stuff less attractive is part of it. What is important is to be there  even if it  seems lifeless.

One day the magic will come back and even if does not come back I can still choose to be there.