Highlights from Chapter 1 of her book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change
Chapter 1–The Fundamental Ambiguity of Being Human
1.Of the Three Commitments discussed in the book, the first is the Pratimoksha Vow. This vow highlights the importance of being good to people by not causing harm to others. Not even in thoughts.
2.Understanding the fundamental ambiguity of being human is being aware and accepting one of the laws of the universe: everything changes—
3.And: “When we resist change, it’s called suffering.”
4.What happens when we let go of our self-destructive habit of resisting change? We experience freedom and freedom—as Chödrön simply puts in her book—is nothing more and nothing less than accepting change. Accepting that everything changes.
5.But how do we begin to accept change? And accept it on a daily basis? Chödrön says that we tend to hold on to things rather than letting them go by truly experiencing them in the moment. Experiencing them in the moment means not repressing bad feelings, but being truly aware of them. Holding on to our feelings is called ego-clinging and a way to deal with it is by identifying our attachment or our shenpa. “Shenpa has a visceral quality associated with grasping or, conversely, pushing away. This is the feeling of I like, I want, I need and I don’t like, I don’t want, I don’t need, I want it to go away.”
6.If ego-clinging is one of the causes of our suffering, then how do we deal with it? Besides understanding that we must accept change and renounce to the practice of holding on to things. Well, we let go by being fully mindful of both the good and the bad feelings. A good practice is thought labeling. Once we identify shenpa, we can welcome all of the feelings that we experience, but rather than cling on to them for hours, days, or even longer than that, we hold them for a couple of minutes.
7.For instance, I’m angry that somebody cut in line at the supermarket but rather than stay angry until I get home, I will embrace it for a minute or two, perhaps take a few deep breaths, and then let it go. Because, after all, these feelings are transient Feelings of sadness, anger, joy, etc. are all transient and when we identify these we begin to accept one of the most important lessons of the book:
8.Our identity is fluid—not fixed. As Chödrön beautifully highlights: “Rather than living a life of resistance and trying to disprove our basic situation of impermanence and change, we could contact the fundamental ambiguity and welcome it,” and “The way to weaken the habit of clinging to fixed ideas and contact the fluidity of thoughts and emotions is to shift your focus to a wider perspective.”
9.This means not only labeling out thoughts but experiencing them in time and space. Chödrön advises to let them arise, dwell, and return to space. When we practice this instead of “rehashing” the same feelings over and over again we strengthen our practice of dealing with negative emotions.As for the positive emotions, though fleeting as they may be, we shouldn’t pressure ourselves in dismissing. At least, that is my advice. For me, thought-labeling is useful in dealing with distressing emotions and avoiding obsessing over them. But if you’re happy, who’s to say you should immediately let go of it. Enjoy it!
10.As for the positive emotions, though fleeting as they may be, we shouldn’t pressure ourselves in dismissing. At least, that is my advice. For me, thought-labeling is useful in dealing with distressing emotions and avoiding obsessing over them. But if you’re happy, who’s to say you should immediately let go of it. Enjoy it!
Nevertheless, the practice is to be fully aware of thoughts and emotions as we become more mindful of them.