Practicing Peace in Times of War [Paperback]
New paperback edition. War and peace begin in the hearts of individuals, s Pema Chodron at the opening of her new inspiring book.
She draws on Buddhist teachings to explore the roots of aggression and war, explaining that they lie nowhere but within our own hearts and minds. She goes on to explain that the way in which we as individuals respond to challenges in our everyday lives can either perpetuate a culture of violence or create a new culture of compassion. She also offers practical techniques any of us can use to work for peace in our own lives, at the level of our habits of thought and action. It's never too late, she tells us, to look within and discover a new way of living and transform not only our personal lives but our whole world.
"If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that responsibility. That's the true practice of peace." Pema Chodron.
Read an extract of this title
WHEN SOMETHING we find unpleasant occurs, our conditioning automatically clicks in and we have a strong reaction. There is a practice we can do right then to help us stay present and awake. It is called compassionate abiding. Compassionate abiding provides a way to no longer invest our reactions with so much absolute truth. We can see our interpretations and our opinions as just~ that-our interpretations and opinions. We no longer have to be under their control, or have them color everything we think and do. Strong reactions will continue to arise, just the way the weather changes. But each of us can develop our ability to not escalate the emotions so that they become a nightmare and increase our suffering.
For the purpose of doing this practice, try to connect with a feeling of aversion to something. Whether this is a smell, a sound, or a memory of a person, an event, dark places, snakes-whatever it is, use your discursive mind to help you contact the feeling of aversion. And then, as much as possible, apply the technique of letting the thoughts go so that you can abide in the experience of aversion as a felt quality.
For some people it's just felt in the body. Sometimes it's more atmospheric. Imagine someone asking you, "What does aversion feel like?" You want to find out. Even if you can't put it into words, you want to have a nonverbal experience of dislike.
Once you've contacted that, if you can contact it, then breathe in; instead of pushing the feeling of aversion away, invite it in, but without believing in the judgments and opinions about it, just contacting the feeling free of your interpretation. You can do this for yourself as a way of approaching what you find repulsive, and you can also do it with the wish that all people, who just like you are hooked by the power of aversion, could not act it out, could not become its slave. In this way your own discomfort can connect you with the aversion and pain of other people and awaken your compassion.
So this exercise of compassionate abiding, and in this case specifically, abiding with the experience of aversion, consists of breathing in the negative feeling and then relaxing outward. Then you breathe the feeling in and relax outward again and again. You could do this for five minutes or for hours or anytime, on the spot, when aggressive feelings arise. We do this for ourselves and all other people who feel prejudice and disgust and have no way of working with it so it escalates into self-denigration, into jealousy, and violence, and creates endless suffering all over the world.
We contact the aversion, experiencing it as fully as possible as we breathe in, and then we relax as we breathe out. We let the feeling be a basis for compassion, and also-gradually, over time-we realize that it's like a phantom; when we stay with it in this way, the aversion dissolves; it's not an opponent that we're struggling against; it's not anything except energy that gets solidified and that we justify and then, on the basis of that justification, we hurt people.
There's a quote that is usually attributed to Carl Jung that says, "The only way out is through." This is very much the approach here. It's not a way of getting rid of strong emotions, nor is it a way of indulging in them. Gradually we learn to simply abide with our experience just as it is, without building it up or tearing it down, without getting carried away, knowing our own unfabricated energy as the same fluid, dynamic, unpindownable energy that courses through all living things.