As a Buddhist nun Pema has brought the humanity of Buddhism to the world through her teachings, writings and audio recordings. I couldn’t be more grateful.
One winter I went to sleep every night listening to her audio book, “Unconditional Confidence.” I drifted in and out of sleep catching the wise words as I drifted between worlds. I heard about her own struggles with depression and how she even tried marijuana to numb the pain. It didn’t work. Everything just made her feel more lost.
But somehow, eventually, she found her way to the teachings of her teacher Chogyam Trungpa, and she meditated and she studied and to the great benefit of us all she has taught what she learned.
Why do Pema’s teachings touch our hearts so deeply? Why do we turn to her books, retreats and audio recordings again and again? I think it is because she has been there and done it as they say. She has had children and gone through a divorce. Her heart has broken and then she found the dharma and learned how to stay with a broken heart.
And she is an incredible communicator who has found the kind words and the funny words and the meaningful words to share these teachings. This is no small feat.
So, here I share with you four of my Pema favorites. I hope they help you today, tomorrow and any day you need them.
1. Life is a work in progress, a process of uncovering our natural openness, uncovering our natural intelligence and warmth. I have discovered, just as my teachers always told me, that we already have what we need. The wisdom, the strength, the confidence, the awakened heart and mind are always accessible, here, now, always.
We are just uncovering them. We are rediscovering them. We’re not inventing them or importing them from somewhere else. They’re here. That’s why when we feel caught in darkness, suddenly the clouds can part. Out of nowhere we cheer up or relax or experience the vastness of our minds. No one else gives this to you. People will support you and help you with teachings and practices, as they have supported and helped me, but you yourself experience your unlimited potential.
2. So, if you can combine that moving in the direction of nothing to hide from yourself with humor and loving kindness then the whole thing begins to transform your being.
3. As long as we’re caught up in always looking for certainty and happiness, rather than honoring the taste and smell and quality of exactly what is happening, as long as we’re always running away from discomfort, we’re going to be caught in a cycle of unhappiness and disappointment, and we will feel weaker and weaker. This way of seeing helps us to develop inner strength. And what’s especially encouraging is the view that inner strength is available to us at just the moment when we think we’ve hit the bottom, when things are at their worst.
Instead of asking ourselves, “How can I find security and happiness?” we could ask ourselves, “Can I touch the center of my pain? Can I sit with suffering, both yours and mine, without trying to make it go away? Can I stay present to the ache of loss or disgrace-disappointment in all its many forms-and let it open me?” This is the trick.
4. Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, and therefore 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. We can lead our life so as to 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. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.