Derek Sivers

The Wisdom of No Escape - by Pema Chödrön

The Wisdom of No Escape - by Pema Chödrön

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Powerful thoughts on not running, distracting, or escaping, but sticking with something all the way through.

my notes

People often think that somehow they’re going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. “If I could meditate and calm down, I’d be a better person.”

Develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.

We can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is.

If, at the end of each day, someone were to play a video of you back to yourself and you could see it all. You would wince quite often and say “Ugh!” You probably would see that you do all those things for which you criticize all those people you don’t like in your life, all those people that you judge. Basically, making friends with yourself is making friends with all those people too, because when you come to have this kind of honesty, gentleness, and goodheartedness, combined with clarity about yourself, there’s no obstacle to feeling loving-kindness for others as well.

One of the major obstacles to what is traditionally called enlightenment is resentment, feeling cheated, holding a grudge about who you are, where you are, what you are.

It doesn’t do any good to try to get rid of our so-called negative aspects, because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness.

Become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing.

“I’m always suspicious of the ones who say everything’s going well. If you think that things are going well, then it’s usually some kind of arrogance. If it’s too easy for you, you just relax. You don’t make a real effort, and therefore you never find out what it is to be fully human.”

When you begin to think that everything is just perfect and feel complacent and superior to the others, watch out!

You were very good right from the beginning, but I knew if I told you that you were good, you would stop trying.

Work with ourselves in the same way.

Three qualities that we can nurture, cultivate, and bring out: precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go.

The key to feeling more whole and less shut off and shut down is to be able to see clearly who we are and what we’re doing.

Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things.

The desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself.

Open beyond small-mindedness and to let go of any kind of fixation or limited view.

You may be completely caught up in a fantasy, in remembering the past or planning for the future. Then suddenly you realize, and you just come back.

Letting go of those thoughts.

One of the most amazing tools given, the ability to just let things go, not to be caught in the grip of your thoughts

Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting.

A woman running away from tigers. She comes to the edge of a cliff, she climbs down and holds on to the vines. She sees that there are tigers below her as well. A mouse is gnawing away at the vine. Sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat.

The Navajo teach their children that every morning when the sun comes up, it’s a brand-new sun. “The sun has only one day. You must live this day in a good way, so that the sun won’t have wasted precious time.”

You’re always standing in the middle of a sacred circle. This room is not the sacred circle. Gampo Abbey is not the sacred circle.

Stick to one vehicle and go deeper and deeper and deeper.

Life is such a miracle, and a lot of the time we feel only resentment about how it’s all working out for us.

“Are you sure you want to attain enlightenment?” And the woman said, “Of course I’m sure.” Whereupon the smiling woman turned into a demon, stood up brandishing a great big stick, and started chasing her, saying, “Now! Now! Now!” For the rest of her life, that lady could never get away from the demon who was always saying, “Now!”

The biggest obstacle to taking a bigger perspective on life is that our emotions capture and blind us.

When we start getting angry or craving things in a way that makes us feel miserable, we begin to shut down, shut out.

Samurai comes to the wise man and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” And the roshi says: “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?” The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won’t stop, he keeps saying, “A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?” Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he’s just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, “That’s hell.” The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man.

Hell is just resistance to life. When you want to say no to the situation you’re in, it’s fine to say no, but when you build up a big case to the point where you’re so convinced that you would draw your sword and cut off someone’s head, that kind of resistance to life is hell.

As soon as you begin to believe in something, then you can no longer see anything else.

There are wars all over the world because people are insulted that someone else doesn’t agree with their belief system.

Fundamental theism. You want something to hold on to, you want to say, “Finally I have found it. This is it, and now I feel confirmed and secure and righteous.”

“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha.” (A good laugh is the best way to kill the Buddha.)

Continually to look one’s beliefs straight in the face, honestly and clearly, and then step beyond them.

It’s part of being human to feel discomfort. We don’t even have to call it suffering.

Resisting life causes suffering. The cessation of suffering is letting go of holding on to ourselves.

Our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane.

The wilder the weather is, the more the ravens love it. They challenge the wind. They get up on the tops of the trees and they hold on with their claws and then they grab on with their beaks as well. At some point they just let go into the wind and let it blow them away. Then they play on it, they float on it. After a while, they’ll go back to the tree and start over. It’s a game.

Too often we’re victims of not enough nurturing in the beginning, and we don’t know when we’ve grown up. Some of us at the age of fifty or sixty or seventy are still wondering what we’re going to be when we grow up. We remain children in our heart of hearts, which is to say, fundamentally theists.

The way to live is to cut the ties, to cut the umbilical cord and alone start the journey of being fully human, without confirmation from others.

This refusal to look at our unfinished business. If every time the warrior goes and meets the dragon, he or she says, “Hah! It’s a dragon again. No way am I going to face this,” and just splits, then life becomes a recurring story of getting up in the morning, going out, meeting the dragon, saying, “No way,” and splitting. You become more and more timid.

If you’re alone and you feel lonely and you wish you had a mate, that’s the vehicle for waking up. If you have a huge family around you and wish you had a little more free time, that’s the vehicle for waking up. Whatever you have, that’s it. There’s no better situation than the one you have. It’s made for you.

Taking refuge in the brotherhood and sisterhood of people who are committed to taking off their armor. If we live in a family where all the members are committed to taking off their armor, then one of the most powerful vehicles of learning how to do it is the feedback that we give one another.

Develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions and all people. A complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions and to all people, experiencing everything totally without reservations or blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.”

Always trying to escape and therefore never really fully settling down and appreciating.

There are two common forms of human neurosis:

One is getting all caught up in all that occurs, somehow captured by occurrence as if we were caught in a whirlpool. A preference for occurrence. I’m so hot I open all the windows, and then I’m so cold I put on a sweater. Then it itches, so I put cream on my arms, and then that’s sticky, so I go take a bath. Then I’m cold, so I close the window, and on and on and on. I’m lonely, so I get married, and then I’m always fighting with my husband or my wife, so I start another love affair, and then my wife or husband threatens to leave me and I’m caught in the confusion of what to do next, and on and on and on.

The other neurosis is to get caught by peace and quiet, or liberation, or freedom. We experience clarity or bliss, we want to keep it going. Wanting to feel good forever. Arranging your life in such a way that it’s very quiet, very smooth, very simplified; you become so attached to it that you just want to keep it like that. You resist and resent any kind of noisy situation.

Samsara and Nirvana are one, not preferring stillness or occurrence but being able to live fully with both.

Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.

If you can live with the sadness of human life, if you can be willing to feel fully and acknowledge continually your own sadness and the sadness of life, but at the same time not be drowned in it, because you also remember the vision and power of the Great Eastern Sun, you experience balance and completeness, joining heaven and earth, joining vision and practicality.

Ritual is about joining vision and practicality, heaven and earth, samsara and nirvana. When things are properly understood, one’s whole life is like a ritual or a ceremony. Rituals that get handed down are like that. Someone can have an insight, and rather than its being lost, it can stay alive through ritual. The teachings of the Buddha, are like a recipe for fresh-baked bread. Thousands of years ago someone discovered how to bake bread, and because the recipe was passed down for years and years, you can still make fresh bread that you can eat right now.

There are so many wonderful books on the basic teachings; you can read Joseph Goldstein and Ayya Khema and Suzuki Roshi and Chögyam Trungpa and Tarthang Tülku and all the translations of Herbert Guenther.

Nothing that you have ever heard is separate from your life.

To know yourself or study yourself is to forget yourself, and if you forget yourself then you become enlightened by all things.

The dharma never tells you what is true or what is false. It just encourages you to find out for yourself.

“The everyday practice is simply to develop complete acceptance of all situations, emotions, and people.” That sounds like that’s what’s true and not to do that would be false. But that’s not what it says. What it does say is to encourage you to find out for yourself what is true and what is false. Try to live that way and see what happens.

Insight, which means that you have a fresh take on what is true. Someone switches on all the lights and reveals a palace. You say, “Wow! it’s always been here.”

Sharing insights. It feels as if we’ve discovered something that no one else ever knew, and yet it’s completely straightforward and simple.

It’s all very well to know it intellectually, but how do you feel about it? What is your experience of this?

You might know that the first precept is not to kill, but the question really is, when the desire to kill something arises, why is it that you want to kill something? What’s really going on there? And what would the benefit be of refraining from killing? What does refraining do? How do you feel when you refrain? What does it teach you?

Each religion or philosophical belief or New Age group has a kind of wisdom that it carries. Stick to one boat, because otherwise the minute you really begin to hurt, you’ll just leave or you’ll look for something else. Shopping is actually always trying to find security, always trying to feel good about yourself. When one sticks to one boat, whatever that boat may be, then one actually begins the warrior’s journey.

The warrior’s journey is often extremely inconvenient.

When you take refuge and become a Buddhist, there’s the sense of leaving home and becoming homeless. You’ve left the shore, but you haven’t arrived anywhere yet. You don’t know where you’re going, and you’ve been out there at sea long enough that you only have a vague memory of where you came from. It’s so inconvenient. It’s much more convenient to be home.

Opting for coziness, having that as your prime reason for existing, becomes a continual obstacle to taking a leap and doing something new, doing something unusual, like going as a stranger into a strange land.

When I would start to become depressed, I would remember, I just have to figure out how to rouse myself genuinely, because there are a lot of people suffering like this, and if I can do it, they can do it.

If you really have these questions, you’ll find the answers everywhere. But if you don’t have a question, there’s certainly no answer.

A big wave that comes along and knocks you down. You stand up and you begin walking again. Then the next wave comes and knocks you down. The waves just keep coming, but each time you get knocked down, you stand up and keep walking. After a while, you’ll find that the waves appear to be getting smaller.”

When all the walls fall down, when the cocoon completely disappears and we are totally open to whatever may happen, with no withdrawing, no centralizing into ourselves. That is what we aspire to, the warrior’s journey.