Shambhala Sun Home Free Gift with Order Current Issue Subscribe & Save Half Give a Gift Renew Current Text
spacer
spacer
spacer spacer spacer

spacer






spacer spacer
Print

These are three very practical ways to work with chaos: no struggle, poison as medicine, and regarding everything that arises as the manifestation of wisdom. First, we can train in letting the story lines go. Slow down enough to just be present, let go of the multitude of judgments and schemes, and stop struggling.

Second, we can use every day of our lives to take a different attitude toward suffering. Instead of pushing it away, we can breathe it in with the wish that everyone could stop hurting, with the wish that people everywhere could experience contentment in their hearts. We could transform pain into joy.

Third, we can acknowledge that suffering exists, that darkness exists. The chaos in here and the chaos out there is basic energy, the play of wisdom. Whether we regard our situation as heaven or as hell depends on our perception.

Finally, couldn't we just relax and lighten up? When we wake up in the morning, we can dedicate our day to learning how to do this. We can cultivate a sense of humor and practice giving ourselves a break. Every time we sit down to meditate, we can think of it as training to lighten up, to have a sense of humor, to relax. As one student said, "Lower your standards and relax as it is."

1. No more struggle: "Whatever arises, train again and again in seeing it for what it is. The innermost essence of mind is without bias. Things arise and things dissolve forever and ever. Whatever happens, we can look at it with a nonjudgmental attitude. This is the primary method for working with painful situations."

2. Using poison as medicine: "When suffering arises, we breathe it in for everybody. This poison is not just our personal misfortune. It's our kinship with all living things, the seed of compassion and openness. Instead of pushing it away or running from it, we breathe in and connect with it fully. We do this with the wish that all of us could be free of suffering."

3. Regarding whatever arises as awakened energy: "This reverses our habitual pattern of trying to avoid conflict, trying to smooth things out, trying to prove that pain is a mistake that would not exist in our lives if only we did the right things. This view encourages us to look at the charnel ground of our lives as the working basis for attaining enlightenment."

Pema Chödrön is a fully-ordained Buddhist nun and resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She is the author of The Places that Scare You, The Wisdom of No Escape, Start Where You Are and When Things Fall Apart. This article is excerpted from When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. © 1997 by Pema Chodron. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications.

Three Methods for Working with Uncertainty, Pema Chödrön, Shambhala Sun, March 1997



Click here for more articles by Pema Chödrön





In the Face of Fear: Buddhist Wisdom for Challenging Times

Edited by the Shambhala Sun's Barry Boyce and being released to coincide with the Urban Retreat, this new book features the greatest contemporary Buddhist teachers and writers—people renowned for addressing precisely the problems we’re facing today—including the Dalai Lama, Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, Chögyam Trungpa, Sylvia Boorstein, Jack Kornfield, Norman Fischer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sharon Salzberg, and many others.


Click to order In the Face of Fear



spacer
spacer
spacer
Subscribe | Current Issue | Search Archives | Contact Us | Spotlight | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Employment
© 2008 Shambhala Sun | Email: magazine@shambhalasun.com | Tel: 902.422.8404 | Published by Shambhala Sun Foundation