I started Pema Chodron’s book Living Beautifully last week. I highly recommend all of her writings. They are timeless jewels of guidance for all souls — everywhere. This book has a copyright date of 2012, but its content is so relevant to Our Now.
In this book, Pema takes us into the world of Tibetian Buddhism and shares with us the Three Vows. The first vow is one of liberation and non-harming. Secondly, we commit to helping others by nurturing compassion. The last vow asks us to simply to accept the world as it is.
Living Beautifully speaks to us about what being Human is. Down in the mud of our attempts to grow our lotus. In truth, we all share that struggle. Pema calls it “The fundamental ambiguity of being human.”
This groundless, chaotic place is where we begin.
In the past year, we have all been exposed to situations, Humans, injustices, broken promises — that triggered deep emotions. Isolation. Fear. Loss. Pain. Grief. Anger. Events touched our tender places and added even more heavy layers to the burdens we bear. How do we halt a process that seems beyond our control? How do we put down the weight and the pain? How do we live beautifully — every day — even in These Days where chaos rules?
As with All. The. Things mindful — it starts with our inner landscapes.
By embracing the principles of the Three Vows, Tibetian Buddhism offers us the opportunity to listen with compassion, instead of reacting with fear.
We begin by allowing Life to be. When we feel most triggered by our day-to-day existence — it is then that we commit to sitting with what is. Not the story we are telling ourselves. Not the shame or blame or anger the situation stirs within us. Not the retribution we so dearly want to hand out to those we feel are responsible for our discomfort.
We refrain. Which is a completely different action than repression. When we refrain we acknowledge All. The. Things. Our feelings — uncomfortable and uncertain — sit with us. We invite them to tea. We look upon them with compassion and allow their existence. But we stop there. We do not pour our own dose of vitriol out into the world. We wait. In peace. And we allow our feelings the opportunity to explain themselves, to discuss their history, to drink their tea in a loving and compassionate environment, and then we allow them to go on their way. Until next time.
And make no mistake — there will always be a next time. As we make this commitment to non-harm, we understand this to our core. Life is a practice — a journey — there will always be triggers. There will always be moments to find the gifts of The Grace within.
Refraining is the foundation upon which we lay our next commitment. One of reaching out to All Beings with caring. Metta is not just something we do sitting on our cushions. Metta is a living, breathing way to enter Life. Compassion for everyone takes incredible courage. As we grow our practice, we look to exchange ourselves with others. Eventually, the inter-connectedness of Gaia surrounds us, envelopes us, and we realize there is no such thing as “Others”.
Grace allows us to see each being’s pain and joy. We find that sitting down to tea with difficult emotions allows us to recognize ourselves in all of Humanity. In All Beings — everywhere. We stop believing our own stories. We slowly open ourselves up to a new narrative.
The final commitment is our ultimate reality check. We allow all the broken bits of our world in. We acknowledge Life will be never The-Fairy-Tale-Story we have constructed in our minds. We come out from behind our defenses, our inner stories, our uncertainty, our suffering. We do not white-wash or struggle with What Is. We stop playing hide and seek with Our Lives. We embrace them. We settle into Our Now with its uncertainty and ambiguity with a sense of curiosity and peace.
Refrain. Care. Embrace. The basic instructions for Living Beautifully.