"This body that we have, this very body that's sitting here right now in this room, this very body that perhaps aches, and this mind that we have at this very moment, are exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive.
"Furthermore, the emotions that we have right now, the negativity and the positivity, are what we actually need. It is just as if we looked around to find out what would be the greatest wealth that we could possibly possess in order to lead to a decent, good, completely fulfilling, energetic, inspired life, and found it right here." – Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness (you can find the whole book here)
“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” – Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (1997)
On nothing being what we thought: “The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought. That’s what we’re going to discover again and again and again. Nothing is what we thought. I can say that with great confidence. Emptiness is not what we thought. Neither is mindfulness or fear. Compassion – not what we thought. Love. Buddha nature. Courage. These are code words for things we don’t know in our minds, but any of us could experience them. These are words that point to what life really is when we let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present moment.” – Pema Chödrön in the chapter ‘Intimacy with Fear’ in When Things Fall Apart – Heart Advice for Difficult Times
“It seems we all have the tendency to move away from the present moment. It’s as if this habit is built into our DNA.” – Pema Chödrön
Pema Chödrön on joy:
“Joy has to do with seeing how big, how completely unobstructed, and how precious things are. Resenting what happens to you and complaining about your life are like refusing to smell the wild roses when you go for a morning walk, or like being so blind that you don’t see a huge black raven when it lands in the tree that you’re sitting under. We can get so caught up in our own personal pain or worries that we don’t notice that the wind has come up or that somebody has put flowers on the dining room table or that when we walked out in the morning, the flags weren’t up, and that when we came back, they were flying. Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting.
There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.
Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our lives.” – page 24, Chapter Six – “Joy” – The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness, Pema Chödrön, Shambhala, 1991
Pema C. on heaven & hell:
“There’s another story that you may have read that has to do with what we call heaven and hell, life and death, good and bad. It’s a story about how those things don’t really exist except as a creation of our own minds. It goes like this: A big burly samurai comes to the wise man and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.” And the roshi looks him in the face and 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. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, “That’s heaven.”
There isn’t any hell or heaven except for how we relate to our world. 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.” - page 31-32 Chapter 7 – “Taking a Bigger Perspective” – The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness, Pema Chödrön, Shambhala, 1991
Pema on life’s work: “Life’s work is to wake up, to let the things that enter into the circle wake you up rather than put you to sleep. The only way to do this is to open, be curious, and develop some sense of sympathy for everything that comes along, to get to know its nature and let it teach you what it will. It’s going to stick around until you learn your lesson, at any rate. You can leave your marriage, you can quit your job, you can only go where people are going to praise you, you can manipulate your world until you’re blue in the face to try to make it always smooth, but the same old demons will always come up until finally you have learned your lesson, the lesson they came to teach you. Then those same demons will appear as friendly, warmhearted companions on the path.” ~ page 32, Chapter 7 – “Taking a Bigger Perspective” – The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness, Pema Chödrön, Shambhala, 1991
“Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. It is all we ever have so we might as well work with it rather than struggling against it. We might as well make it our friend and teacher rather than our enemy.” – Pema Chödrön
More Pema quotes here