This book by Pema Chodron was on my reading list since last summer when I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact there was a small human growing inside me. I finally got it last month from the library and put off reading it thinking it's irrelevant at this point - things are falling into place for me, not apart!
There is so much more to life than what we see. That thinking I had, before reading the book, was barely seeing half the picture. Life is always falling apart and rearranging. Trying to find order in it and hold onto certain ways and things is futile. Nature is fluid and trying to grasp it either in the past or future makes us stuck there and disconnected from the current moment. Many pages stood out to me but the first most notable one was pg 49. It was describing an experience of complete hopelessness as the point of true mindfulness. While losing all hope sounds pretty depressing it was presented in an interesting way: we lose the focus on something being better than we have now or on us being better and forces us to just be in the moment, relaxing into and accepting what we have. It goes along with a great quote from pg4, "Buddha nature, cleverly disguised as fear, kicks our ass into being receptive." Just as with losing hope, fear can corner us into not thinking of anything but the thing we fear itself. It disturbs our thinking and shakes us up to really focus. The things we try to avoid by putting our life in order and planning it out are unavoidable. If there is a lesson we need to learn it will catch us one way or another. And every lesson we learn through a hardship suffered or a challenge survived changes us. The only difference is does it change us for better or worse? Do we shut down and fight harder against the world or do we open up to be more compassionate, more in tune with nature and ourselves? As Chodron puts it, "What we call obstacles are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we're stuck."
Other great quotes:
"The only reason that we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with." This is so true. If we know a situation or person will challenge us or test us in uncomfortable ways, we tend to avoid it/them. It doesn't even need to be the person who tests us but the feelings they may bring up. Such as a workout buddy we haven't seen in a while and we know they're still regularly going to the gym while we haven't gone in a while. They may be our friend outside of working out too but just having that previous relationship may make us feel too guilty to face them. They may not even care what we've been doing exercise-wise but our own guilt about it might make us avoid them.
And what to me sums up the book and Buddha nature, "Yet when we don't close off and we let our hearts break, we discover kinship with all beings."
"Instead of spending hours and hours disciplining ourselves to defeat the enemy, we could spend hours and hours dissolving the causes of war."