I was first introduced to Buddhist nun Pema Chodron a few months ago when reviewing her book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. Chodron is widely known for her charming and down-to-earth interpretations of Tibetan Buddhism for a Western audience, and I found her wisdom easy to apply to my everyday life. When I finished her book, I was wanting for more insight.
Fully Alive, the audio recording of the Omega Institute retreat hosted by Chodron and her teaching assistant, is based on Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. The four and a half hour CD offers Chodron’s wisdom for being fully present and aware, and includes advice on how to access one’s innate strength and confidence. The CD also includes a guided meditation for developing patience (something I could definitely use).
In Fully Alive, Chodron seeks to increase our tolerance for change, and in order to do this, she says we must stop feeding our egos with things that drain us and feed them with things that enlighten us. Her guided meditation accomplishes just that. When it comes to meditation, Chodron is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost teachers:
Here are some of Chodron’s thoughts on meditation:
“Meditation isn’t really about getting rid of thoughts; it’s about changing the pattern of grasping on to things, which in our everyday experience is our thoughts.
“The thoughts are fine if they are seen as transparent, but we get so caught up judging thoughts as right or wrong, for and against, yes and no, needing it to be this way and not that way. And even that might be okay except that is accompanied by strong, strong emotions. So we just start ballooning out more and more. With this grasping on to thoughts we just get more caught, more and more hooked. All of us. Every single one of us.
“It’s as if you had vast, unlimited space—complete openness, total freedom, complete liberation—and the habit of the human race is to always, out of fear, grasp on to little parts of it. And that is called ego, and ego is grasping on to the content of our thoughts. That is also the root of suffering, because there is something in narrowing it down which inherently causes us a lot of pain because it is then that we are always in a relationship of wanting or not wanting. We are always in a struggle with other people, with situations, even with our own being. That’s what we call stress. That’s what we experience as continual, ongoing stress. Even in the most healthy, unneurotic of us, there’s some kind of slight or very profound anxiety of some kind, some kind of uneasiness or dissatisfaction.”
Chodron’s meditation was extremely helpful in clearing clutter from my mind, and has inspired me to mediate in the mornings before work. I have taken meditation classes before, but Chodron’s voice and technique are particularly soothing.
While the topics Chodron discusses can be heavy (spiritual enlightenment, hopelessness, suffering), she addresses them with a sympathetic, reassuring style and cool sense of humor that kept me intrigued and pressing play on my walks to and from work. Chodron is an excellent speaker, and her tone is so engaging and endearing that she has become a teacher I have truly grown to love and respect. This CD is another great work that has helped me deal with stressors, both big and small, in my life.
Learn more about Pema Chodron.