Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Places That Scare You - Book Review

The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron took me to places within myself that I was reluctant to visit. Yet these are the very practices she offers in order to become a boddhisattva (one who has the mind of enlightenment called bodhichitta) where we live in the present moment, cultivating the seed of kindness.

“Each time we drop our complaints and allow every day good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior's world,” writes Chodron. What are the places that scare us? Chodron takes us beyond the obvious universal fears we experience in our humanity to the more subtle fears that inhibit our true freedom; the illusion of separateness that manifests when we judge ourselves and another. Chodron offers us a guide to connect to the basic goodness that resides in every sentient being using her own stories to guide us to be patient, use humor, warmth and kindness as we inquire into our own patterns of thought and behavior. It takes a warrior spirit to go into the places that scare us; the essence of our very humanity and pain. At the heart of our pain and suffering, when we have the courage to abide with those experiences, however, is the tender spot, the sweet spot of loving kindness, compassion and love. She suggests that we soften rather than harden our hearts in response to the challenges life brings and enter into a state of groundlessness where everything we once held dear no longer has meaning.

Chodron awakens us to what causes our suffering. She offers meditation practices/aspirations and the activities of the boddhisatva warrior to take us out of our limiting beliefs and feelings to experience the limitless qualities of joy, loving kindness, compassion and equanimity. Suffering happens when we close our hearts with emotions such as jealousy. Suffering is the result of an aggressive mind. Reactions, strategies and story lines are what keep us all prisoners. Chodron invites us to abide with the physical sensations, appreciate the present moment and soften rather than harden our hearts to allow limitless joy – basic goodness to shine through.

Chodron shares with the reader a wonderful story about a cook at the Abbey where she resides. The cook was feeling unhappy and fed the gloom with her actions and thoughts growing darker and darker by the hour. To ventilate her feelings she baked chocolate chip cookies which she burned. Rather than dump the burned cookies, she stuffed them into her pockets and a backpack and went out for a walk. She questioned where is the beauty and magic she keeps hearing about when a little fox walked toward her. The fox sat down gazing up expectantly. She offered the fox her cookies and he ate them slowly and then trotted away. When she returned to the Abbey she said, “I learned today that life is very precious. Even when we're determined to block the magic, it will get through and wake us up.” The message that is consistent throughout The Places That Scare You is to remain in a place of loving kindness, compassion and patience for ourselves as we journey through life and then from this place we are able to open our hearts abiding with all the suffering, the joys and freedom that life has to offer.

Reading Pema Chodron's, The Places That Scare You has given me a new repertoire of awakening tools to help me continue to evolve out of my beliefs and stories that came with heartache and trauma to the tender hearted, joy filled, grateful Being I am in Truth; a fearless warrior with courage and patience to breathe fully into my life. It's a daily practice, a lifetime of hard work with the sweet rewards of living a life wholeheartedly, completely alive in freedom.

“This simple way of training with pleasure and pain allows us to use what we have, wherever we are, to connect with other people. It engenders on-the-spot bravery, which is what it will take to heal ourselves and our brothers and sisters on the planet.” We train not only for ourselves but for the welfare of all beings. This is a book that I will reread awakening to its wisdom over and over again.

A Song of Freedom - from "Songs of Freedom:Poems From a Healing Odyssey" now available on Amazon

Penned many poems
let Divinity shine
Still not free.
Body memories' cling tightly
Stinging tentacles sucking life force
The simple act of breathing
Not simple
Not easy
When terror fills the heart.
Unnamed--unclaimed heart trembling fear
Dark secrets the padlock on prison cell door.
A yoga mat
Holotropic breath
Flood of tears
Body's free to rant
Sweat pours from every pore.
Divine Sweet Love and Light
fill the room
Heavenly Voices serenade rebirth
We are all ONE
Illusion of uniqueness GONE
Healing bathes each human
Until all that remains
is The Soul.

From my heart to yours
May all beings be happy and free
With love

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