Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pema Chodron - "Getting Unstuck"

(Extracted from a talk entitled "Getting Unstuck" by Pema Chodron from a Sounds True recording):

"Its very important to see what we do. Dzigar Kongtrul always says - if you begin to see what you do, you see the shenpa and you're working with it in your practices, say like the basic practice that underlies all practices - learning to stay. When you see it and the momentum is getting very strong with the thoughts and you interrupt them with the label "thinking", just so that you're cutting the momentum of the shenpa, you come back to the breath which is like learning to stay in the present moment with the underlying energy {Dzigar Kongtrul calls this "simmering"}.

If you aspire to work that way in meditation, and in post-meditation (which is the rest of your life), to catch the shenpa and to remember to practice at that point, there is no way that your life will not be gradually, perhaps imperceptibly, transformed, so that when you look back you begin to see.

The only way that I know that anything has ever happened is to look back, because I never get gratified by peak experiences or breakthroughs.

It never happens to me. (Adding longing to her voice) I've always wanted it to happen...

(Audience laughs)

It never has, and I still want it to happen, but I am beginning to realize that it doesn't matter, people tell me their stories constantly and breakthrough experiences don't always add up to much. They come and they tell me something, and I think - wow, wish I experienced that. And then the next day they're completely hooked by some shenpa.

And so gradual is good. (chuckles) At least I keep telling myself...

(Audience laughs)

No, it really is. It really is. It is good. And so that's fortunate since it is extremely gradual.

It's like willing to lose half a pound a week until you've lost the 150 pounds you need to lose, rather than try to lose 20 pounds a week and keep adding it back all the time. It stays off, as they say... And the main thing is this aspiration.

So the point that Dzigar Kongtrul makes is that until you begin to train in seeing and staying so that you can see the shenpas and working with them, he said - then basically, what's going to happen is life is always going to be hooking you. Little things are going to be just throwing you for a loop right and left, just out of the blue, like people throwing rocks at your head, the slightest thing basically triggers you and you are off and running. And it gets stronger and stronger. He says life just becomes more and more confusing, more and more of a struggle, more and more of a burden, because you have never looked at the root cause, which is the shenpa, and therefore you get triggered right and left, triggered all the time.

Once you start seeing, you still get triggered because that's what you see, but there is something different.

The magic of seeing.

Its sort of like Thich Nhat Hanh talking about the miracle of mindfulness. Its the miracle of learning to stay. Being present with the shenpa, knowings its happening. The more you do it, the more you're ability to be able to do it grows. And the ability to see more and more subtle levels. Just naturally begins to happen. Thats not something you have to force, it just naturally happens that there is less and less self-deception, less and less ability to hide out.

When I really get hooked, and I'm starting to get all worked up, I do something which I call "teaching myself the dharma". And sometimes this really helps. And that is I might say to myself - if I follow this what will be the result? The habituation of strengthening this pattern. What will be the result? What will happen in a years time, in two years time? This pain I am trying to get away from will be more, and so that inspires me to do the tough work of staying with disagreeable feelings of unease."

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