by Rita Graving
PEMA CHÖDRÖN is an American Buddhist nun and author of many best-selling books. “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change” is written in layman’s terms. In plain English, Chodron speaks simply, with stories and anecdotes – many of her own personal experiences and challenges along the journey –reassuring all of us who are weary of the frenzied pace and fearful of the future.
Although I’ve always been interested in Buddhism, this was my literary introduction to its philosophy and practice. Within the first few paragraphs I knew I had found the right resource. This book is directed to a mainstream, modern audience searching for spiritual guidance in an uncertain world.
Finding Stability in an Uncertain World
The premise of “Living Beautifully” went straight to the core of what keeps us (well me anyway) sometimes awake at night. Our nature is to seek stability and permanence and that isn’t the world we live in. But the Buddhist tools to not only survive, but thrive are so simply stated that when you read them they make perfect sense.
“The Three Vows” are the lessons presented in this teaching.
- Cause no Harm: Easy enough right? Hardly. As the foundation is laid out for us, this vow becomes literally impossible to perfect. All we can do is give it our best shot and then show compassion to ourselves for our harmful thoughts and actions about and toward others, ourselves, our environment, our country…the list goes on and on. We are gently reminded to remain present, connect with our heart and try, try again.
- Take Care of Others: As we build on the first commitment to refrain from words and actions that harm ourselves and others, we seek to alleviate the pain of the world by taking care of others. And that means to feel their pain even when it is raw and edgy. We are warriors in training.
- Embrace the World Just as It Is: We commit to not rejecting anything as we begin to awaken to the basic goodness of all that is. This requires staying present which takes practice. We let go of the story line we have lived with – a process that can trigger the ego into high gear in attempting to maintain the status quo. It’s about engaging with the simplicity of authentic life and being fully open to whatever is being presented right now. It is here that we embrace everything that shows up in our life as a vehicle for awakening.
Chodron says ”Together, the Three Commitments form the education of the warrior. On the warrior path, we train patiently in never turning away from our experience.” Thankfully she adds, “We don’t develop this discrimination all at once. We get there inch by inch, moment by moment, step by step, working with our mind and heart.”
Sweet relief. That’s what I found in the words of “Living Beautifully”. The concepts and philosophy follows me throughout my day and I notice where I am with these practices.
The message within the pages is not only presented with gentleness; it is gentleness. It resonates with me as something to aspire to without demanding perfection, deadline, guilt or shame.
This is a beautifully written book with a powerful message. It’s uplifting, inspiring and easy to read. Thankfully, Pema Chodron is a prolific writer with many published books and other resources available.
Reviewer Recommendation: A “must-read” for anyone seeking calm in a chaotic world.