For the last two months on Thursday evenings I’ve been offering teachings on meditation. These teachings have been loosely based on Pema Chodron’s brief, easy to read and highly understandable book called How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends With Your Mind. I especially like Pema Chodron’s making friends with your mind approach to meditation. It’s so down-to-earth and real.
STEADFASTNESS: “The first thing that we’re doing when we meditate—is cultivating and nurturing steadfastness with ourselves.” ~Pema Chodron
I plan to continue these talks until the end of June. It would be wonderful if you joined us. Either way, I strongly recommend you read this book. Anyone interested in meditation can gain form it. In it Pema Chodron touches on everything from good posture, to the essentials of right attitude, to the challenges we face when working with thoughts and emotions in meditation.
CLEAR SEEING: “Meditation deepens your understanding of yourself.” ~Pema Chodron
I like Pema Chodron’s approach because it casts developing a meditation practice as one powerful way to learn to make friends with every aspect of one’s self. This is a terribly important project. It’s important because if we’re able to relate to, understand, tolerate, lighten up around, and work skillfully with our own anger, sadness, fear, and embarrassing quirks, for example, we will be able to tolerate and constructively work with the shadows in others when they appear.
COURAGE: “Meditation loosens up our conditioning; it’s loosening up the way we hold ourselves together, the way we perpetuate our suffering.” ~Pema Chodron
Therefore, the aim of her befriending approach is not simply to present meditation as a means to calm ones self in the face of life’s stresses. Nor is it aimed to achieve some transcendental heavenly state. But, it’s a way to learn to understand, accept, and embrace all of one’s self. And this befriending becomes a process and a means to living life based on openness, tolerance, love, peace, understanding, maturity, and nonviolence.
ATTENTION TO EVERY MOMENT: “Meditation helps you meet your edge; it’s where you actually come up against it and you start to lose it. Meeting the unknown of the moment allows you to live your life and to enter your relationships and commitments ever more fully.” ~Pema Chodron
Pema Chodron teaches that when we meditate we are nurturing the five qualities I’ve used for headings in this post. They are: steadfastness, clear seeing, courage, attention to every moment, and what she calls “no big deal.”
NO BIG DEAL: “Yes, with meditation you may experience profound insight, or the magnificent feeling of grace or blessing, or the feeling of transformation and newfound courage, but then: no big deal. You’re on your deathbed, and you have this nurse who’s driving you nuts, and it’s funny: no big deal.” ~Pema Chodron
Things and events become no big deal because through steadfastness to our self and clear seeing, courage, and a willingness to pay attention in every moment we learn that life is change. We’ve learned to tolerate and welcome all the changes in us and outside us. So, we can be steady, emotionally even, equanimous, even with a cranky or too solicitous caretaker as we’re dying.
Another way to frame Pema Chodron’s meditation teaching is to look at the cultivation of her five qualities as facets of what psychotherapists call the essentials for making a therapeutic “holding environment of empathy.”
This therapeutic holding environment is one governed by empathy and understanding. And this environment is composed of what the psychotherapist and author David Richo calls the five A’s. They are: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing.
In therapy, if the therapist is able to communicate these five qualities of empathy and understanding to her client through their relationship, that client is more likely to experience the safety and security necessary to move toward positive transformation, growth, and maturity.
We must extend empathy and understanding to ourselves as well as to others!
In the case of meditation practice, what the meditator learns through cultivating steadfastness to the self, clear seeing and courageousness, and by being attentive to the moment and equanimous is that there is a refuge of empathetic safety and love available inside.
Yet, we have to slow down. We have to be willing to look. It takes courage and ongoing discipline to take our seat in this way. But, we can do it. Give yourself the attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and permission you already deserve. Be willing to truly make friends with yourself so you can fully make friends with the world.
Here is a link to an abbreviated introduction to How to Meditate by Pema Chodron’s: https: lionsroar.com/5-reasons-to-meditate-september-2013/
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Have a wonderful week!