Using Adversity   Pema Chodron

Be Grateful to Everyone
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The slogan 'Be grateful to everyone' is about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected. Through doing that, we also make peace with the people we dislike. More to the point, being around people we dislike is often a catalyst for making friends with ourselves. Thus, "Be grateful to everyone."

If we were to make a list of people we don't like - people we find obnoxious, threatening, or worthy of contempt - we would find out a lot about those aspects of ourselves that we can't face. If we were to come up with one word about each of the troublemakers in our lives, we would find ourselves with a list of descriptions of our own rejected qualities, which we project onto the outside world. The people who repel us unwittingly show the aspects of ourselves that we find unacceptable, which otherwise we can't see. In traditional teachings on lojong it is put another way: other people trigger the karma that we haven't worked out. They mirror us and give us the chance to befriend all of that ancient stuff that we carry around like a backpack full of boulders.

"Be grateful to everyone" is getting at a complete change of attitude. This slogan is not wishy-washy and naive. It does not mean that if you're mugged on the street you should smile knowingly and say "Oh, I should be grateful for this" before losing consciousness. This slogan actually gets at the guts of how we perfect ignorance through avoidance, not knowing we're eating poison, not knowing that we're putting another layer of protection over our heart, not seeing the whole thing.

"Be grateful to everyone" means that all situations teach you, and often it's the tough ones that teach you the best. There may be a Juan or Juanita in your life, and Juan or Juanita is the one who gets you going. They're the ones who don't go away: your mother, your husband, your wife, your lover, your child, the person that you have to work with every single day, part of the situation you can't escape. There's no way that someone else can tell you exactly what to do, because you're the only one who knows where it's torturing you, where your relationship with Juan or Juanita is getting into your guts.

When the great Buddhist teacher Atisha went to Tibet... he was told the people of Tibet were very good-natured, earthy, flexible, and open; he decided they wouldn't be irritating enough to push his buttons. So he brought along with him a mean-tempered, ornery Bengali tea boy. He felt that was the only way he could stay awake. The Tibetans like to tell the story that, when he got to Tibet, he realized that he need not have brought his tea boy: the people there were not as pleasant as he had been told.

In our own lives, the Bengali tea boys are the people who, when you let them through the front door of your house, go right down to the basement where you store the things you'd rather not deal with, pick out one of them, bring it to you, and say "Is this yours?"

From Start Where You Are : A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodron, Copyright 1994, Shambhala Publications.
Published by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston.

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Probably the most accessible introduction to the Mind Training practice. Pema combines a deep understanding of the Western Mind, deep immersion in the Tibetan tradition, and a wonderful sense of humor about human nature. This book is unique in that Pema shares with us her own struggles and failures, and shows, using examples that we Westerners can relate to, how the proverbs can gently bring us back to the path. Her humor, understanding, and love shine through this book
A wonderful set of tapes, every one of which I have played many times. 'Pema shows you how to use your own painful emotions as stepping stones to wisdom, compassion and fearlessness. You will learn how to make friends with the most painful parts of your life experience, and how to use your natural courage and honesty to transform even the most painful situations.'
This commentary on "Using adverse conditions as the path to awakening" is the ideal book for someone in crisis. Its aim is not to survive the crisis, but to use it as a unique opportunity to let go and open up. I'm sure you know someone in crisis right now, and this is the perfect gift for them (or for yourself).
Set of 6 audiocassettes on Mind Training, the Four Immeasurables, and other subjects.
This is an abridged pocket edition of Pema's first book, "The Wisdom of No Escape". Carry it everywhere you go, open it at random to any piece of her humorous and compassionate wisdom. Or just look into her eyes on the cover photo! A bargain.
Instruction on Shamatha-Vipashyana (calm abiding and insight) meditation with all of Pema's characteristic touch and humanity.