(Image credit: Lynn Cornish)
A former elementary school teacher, the director of the first Buddhist monastery in the West, and one of the most resounding voices in spirituality today, Pema Chodron rocks my world. In my last blog on Pema Chodron, I shared a video of hers, where she imparts the wisdom of “building a shoe” to carry us across difficult terrain. If the shoe represents tools and techniques (deep breathing, meditation), whether Buddhist or not, Pema is a master shoemaker. And one of Oprah’s 20 Most Powerful Women!
The quote below inspired a yoga class last week that felt particularly expansive for me as a teacher. After pranayam (and kriyas in intermediate), we experienced postures with hands on our hearts, connecting to our natural rhythm, reminding ourselves of that symbolic center of compassion and loving kindness. We used the technique described below in building a shoe . . . a shoe to carry us across the deserts of frustration and anger . . . and it felt so good!
The on-the-spot practice of being fully present, feeling your heart, and greeting the next moment with an open mind can be done at any time: when you wake up in the morning, before a difficult conversation, whenever fear or discomfort arises. This practice is a beautiful way to claim your warriorship, your spiritual warriorship. In other words, it is a way to claim your courage, your kindness, your strength. Whenever it occurs to you, you can pause briefly, touch in with how you’re feeling both physically and mentally, and then connect with your heart-even putting your hand on your heart, if you want to. This is a way of extending warmth and acceptance to whatever is going on for you right now. You might have an aching back, an upset stomach, panic, rage, impatience, calmness, joy-whatever it is, you can let it be there just as it is, without labeling it good or bad, without telling yourself you should or shouldn’t be feeling that way. Having connected with what is, with love and acceptance, you can go forward with curiosity and courage. I call this step “taking a leap.”
In Bill Moyers’ two-part interview with Pema for the PBS special: On Faith and Reason, she goes into detail about her experience of a year of silence (among many other topics). The broadened perspective and heightened sense of presence she describes reminded me of what I experienced on a much smaller scale after 10 days in silent Vipassana meditation. Moyers does a brilliant job of eliciting informal and pragmatic descriptions of Buddhist concepts like attachment and response to suffering. It’s a long one (two 30-min segments), but if you have some time, check it out!