|Basic InformationLatest NewsLinksBook Reviews|10 Minute Solution: Butt Lift10 Minute Solution: High Intensity Interval Training101 Ways to Meditate29 Gifts3-In-1 Total Body Fitness with Desi Bartlett30 Minute Ab & Butt Blaster5 Day Fit Yoga5 Mega Miles with Toning Band7 Weeks to 100 Push-Ups8 Keys to Body Brain Balance8 Keys to Practicing MindfulnessA Journey Into Yin YogaA Philosophy for the Science of Well-BeingA.M. EnergyAccessible Yoga for Every Body DVDAfter the Ecstasy, the LaundryAge-Proof Your MindAgeless Mobility: Pain-Free Wellness For LongevityAlmost MeatlessAM/PM YogaAnd BreatheAnswers for AristotleAnywhere, Anytime, Any Body YogaAthlete's Guide to YogaAuthentic HappinessAwakening Self-EsteemBack in Action: Yoga for a Healthy BackBack To Basics: Fitness with Charlotte OrdBalanced AssetsBedroom Body: Booty Burner, Core & Pelvic Floor WorkoutBeginners Meditation & Mindful StretchingBeginners Yoga DVDBeginning YogaBellyFit ElementsBetter Sex Through YogaBeyond the SelfBody By BethennyBody Mindful YogaBorn to Balance - Balance BasicsBOSH!Breath-Centered YogaBreathingBrightening Our Inner SkiesBuddhist Boot CampCalm Body Clear MindCalm EnergyCalm Focus JoyChakra MeditationsChoosing CivilityClassical Pilates Technique DVDComplementary and Alternative Therapies ResearchCore Fusion - Pilates PlusCore Fusion - Pure Abs & ArmsCore Fusion - Thighs & GlutesCore Fusion Body SculptCore Fusion Lean & TonedCore Fusion Power SculptCore Strength PilatesCore Strength Vinyasa Yoga Power Hour with Sadie NardiniCore YogaCreative Core AbsCreative Writing In Health And Social CareDance Off the Inches: Cardio Hip Hop PartyDance the Chakras Yoga WorkoutDeep ListeningDeep Stretch / Yin YogaDetox YogaDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Eating WellDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Optimum HealthDr. Andrew Weil's Mindbody ToolkitEastern Body, Western MindEasy YogaElement: Barre ConditioningElement: Targeted Toning Pilates for BeginnersElement: Yoga for Stress Relief & FlexibilityElements of Yoga, Earth FoundationsElements of Yoga, Fire DynamicElements of Yoga: Air & WaterEmotional Chaos to ClarityEmotions, Stress, and HealthEvamarie Pilipuf's Yoga Express DVDEvery Day Yoga for Every Body DVDEveryday GreensEveryday Workout for the Everyday WomanEveryday Yoga for Stress Release Everything VeganExercise-Based Interventions for Mental IllnessExhale Core Fusion 30 Day SculptFamily ForagingFamily YogaFast Food for the SoulFat and FuriousFear and Other Uninvited GuestsFit Family Fun CircuitFit in 5 DVDFlat Abs PilatesFlow and YinFlow YogaFluid Power Vinyasa Flow YogaFood You Can ForageForgiveness is Really StrangeFully PresentGaiam Pilates Slide and Sculpt Kit with DVDGaiam Pilates Total Toning KitGaiam Yoga For Weight Loss KitGet Ripped & ChiseledGet RIPPED! 1000 #3Get RIPPED! and Jacked - The Boomer WorkoutGood MedicineGoodbye, ThingsHandbook of MindfulnessHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHealing Through Movement: Pilates Head to ToeHealthy AgingHealthy Sexy Beautiful Kundalini YogaHemalayaa's Yoga for Young Bodies DVDHemalayaa: Bollywood BootyHot Body Cool Mind - Level 1Hot Body Cool Mind: Waking Energy How to Be a PatientHow to Be a StoicHow to Cook Everything VegetarianHow Would Buddha Act?I Contain MultitudesI'd Rather LaughIn Defense of FoodInsight Yoga Earth: Balancing Yin EnergyInsight Yoga Heaven: Balancing YangInsight Yoga with Sarah PowersIntegrated YogaIntegrative MedicineInternational Perspectives on Reminiscence, Life Review and Life Story WorkIntroduction to Ashtanga Yoga DVDIntroduction to Qi YogaIntroduction to Yoga DVDIt's Up to YouJanis Saffell Beverly Hills YogaKids Teach Yoga - Flying EagleKidYogi - Yoga for ChildrenKnowing the Nature of FearKripalu YogaKripalu Yoga Dynamic DVDKripalu Yoga Gentle DVDKundalini Yoga : DVDKundalini Yoga for Beginners & BeyondKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - MONDAYKUNDALINI YOGA for Your Week - TUESDAY - CoreKundalini Yoga Meditation for Beginners & BeyondKundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric DisordersKundalini Yoga on the BallKundalini Yoga Solar Power All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress DVDKundalini Yoga Transformer All-In-One WorkoutKundalini Yoga: Green Energy of the HeartLife MakeoversLifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues--Level 1LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues: Level 2Living BeautifullyLiving Room Yoga DVDLiving Room Yoga: Twist and BendLiving Your Best LifeLiving Your DreamLunar Flow YogaMadhur Jaffrey's World VegetarianMake It Fast, Cook It SlowManage Your Depression Through ExerciseMaui PilatesMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Back PainMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for IBSMayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for InsomniaMean GenesMeditation in a New York MinuteMeditations for BeginnersMeditations on Self-Discipline and FailureMind GamesMindful AmericaMindful AngerMindfulnessMindfulness for BeginnersMindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician's Guide to Evidence Base and ApplicationsMisadventures of a Garden State YogiMozart's Brain and the Fighter PilotNamaste Yoga: Season 3 Part 1NeuroLogicNever Home AloneNew York PilatesNext-Level PilatesNutrition Essentials for Mental HealthOn Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive PersonPassionate VegetarianPerfect in Ten AbsPerfect in Ten: PilatesPerfect in Ten: StretchPerfect in Ten: YogaPilates AnatomyPilates for BeginnersPilates for MenPortraits of ResiliencePositivityPower to the Peaceful YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower YogaPower Yoga for HappinessPower Yoga: Core PowerPower Yoga: Fat BurnerPrenatal FlowPrescriptive StretchingPresence Through Movement: Yin YogaPsychology Moment by MomentPure and Simple YogaPure SculptPure Yoga Pilates with Kerry BestwickQi Gong Fire & Water With Matthew CohenQi Gong Flow for BeginnersQi Gong for Low Back PainQi Gong for Upper Back and Neck PainQi Gong for Weight LossQi Workout AM/PMQiGong for Healthy Joints & BonesQiGong IllustratedQuick Blast MethodReach - Upbeat Toning & Flexibility for a Dancer's BodyRed Lotus YogaResistance Stretching With Dara TorresRestorative Yoga PracticeSara Ivanhoe's Taste DVDSaving NormalSelf-CompassionSeven Challenges To Change Your Life DVDSleep BetterSolar Flow Yoga DVDSoupsSparkSpontaneous HappinessSports Hypnosis in PracticeStep By Step Strength TrainingStep by Step Tai ChiStrength & SpiritStrength, Grace, HealingStress ReliefStrong & SculptedStrong Body, Ageless BodySun SalutationsSuper Natural CookingSuper Seniors: Box, Balance, & Lift SuperhumanSupersurvivorsSurf Yoga SoulSybel's Yoga For Sports & FitnessSybel's Yoga For Sports & Fitness Vol 2Tai Chi for Beginners with Grandmaster William C. C. ChenTaming Your Inner BratTeach Yourself MeditationTeen YogaTeenYogi DVDTen Minutes to RelaxThe Accidental VeganThe Angelica Home KitchenThe Art and Science of MindfulnessThe Athlete's Guide to YogaThe Beginner's Guide to Healthy EatingThe Best Things You Can EatThe Booty Barre -Total New BodyThe Breathing FieldThe Cafe Brenda CookbookThe Complete Book of Raw FoodThe Complete Vegetarian HandbookThe Easy Yoga WorkbookThe Feeling Good HandbookThe Five Things We Cannot Change ...The Good LifeThe Happiness of PursuitThe Harvard Medical School Guide to YogaThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Healing Remedies SourcebookThe Health Psychology HandbookThe Healthy KitchenThe Heart of YogaThe Indian VegetarianThe Jewel Tree of TibetThe Joy of MeditatingThe Kettlebell BoomerThe Little Book of Healthy TeasThe Little Soy BookThe Little Yoga BookThe Mood CureThe Mozart EffectThe Myth of Freedom and the Way of MeditationThe Nature FixThe Origins of HappinessThe Perfect ExerciseThe Pilates Workout JournalThe Playful BrainThe Quest for Peace, Love, and a 24'' WaistThe Road to Calm WorkbookThe Self-Compassion Skills WorkbookThe Spa DeckThe Spirit of Buddhist MeditationThe Stoic Art of LivingThe Ultimate BALLET YOGAThe Ultra MindsetThe Way of StretchingThe Weight of the NationThe Well-Tuned BrainThe Will to Live and Other MysteriesThe Wisdom of FrugalityThe Yin Yoga KitThink SmartTotal AstangaTotal Health the Chinese WayTotal PilatesTotal-Body ToningTransform Yourself with Jivamukti YogaTransformative YogaTrudie Styler's Warrior YogaUnderstanding the PelvisV-Core WorkoutVegan ExpressVegan for LifeVegan Recipes from the Middle EastVegetarian Turkish CookingVegetarianoViva Vegan!Walk It Off in 30 DaysWalk to the HITS Radio RemixesWalkingWalking a Literary LabyrinthWatch Me Do YogaWeight Loss Cardio KickWellbeingWhat We Say MattersWhen Things Fall ApartWriting in FlowYin and Yang YogaYin Yoga DVDYogaYogaYogaYoga & Pilates Workouts for DummiesYoga 4 TeensYoga : Beginners Flow for EveryoneYoga AnatomyYoga and PsychologyYoga as MedicineYoga Beauty BodyYoga Bliss HipsYoga Body : Lean & Defined Total Body WorkoutYoga By Teens DVDYoga Emergency DVD: Arms & ShouldersYoga Emergency DVD: BackYoga Emergency DVD: Full Leg StretchYoga Emergency DVD: HipsYoga Flow DVDYoga for AnxietyYoga for AthletesYoga for Back CareYoga for BeginnersYoga for Energy & Stress ReliefYoga for EveryoneYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Regular GuysYoga for Strength & EnergyYoga for Strength & FlexibilityYoga for the Young at HeartYoga for Your WeekYoga In BedYoga in BedYoga Inside Out: Go DeeperYoga Inside Out: The Healing WayYoga Journal's Yoga for StressYoga Journal: Yoga for Strength and Toning DVDYoga Link: Core IntegrationYoga Link: Hip HelpersYoga Link: Shoulder Shape-UpYoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation and Stress ReliefYoga on DemandYoga Quick FixesYoga SanctuaryYoga SculptYoga ShaktiYoga TherapyYoga TherapyYoga Therapy for Back PainYoga Therapy Prescriptions - 60 Health Restorative SequencesYoga To Go's Yoga Quick Fixes DVDYoga to the Rescue - Feel Good from Head to ToeYoga to the Rescue for Back PainYoga to the Rescue for Neck & ShouldersYoga to the Rescue for Pain-Free Back, Neck & ShouldersYoga Weight Loss for DummiesYoga: Freedom from Back PainYoga: Relief from Neck and Shoulder PainYoga: Spirit of Vinyasa FlowYogabodyYogawomanYou Can Think Yourself ThinYou'll See It When You Believe ItYour Body Breakthru - Your Best Body Circuit DVDYour Brain on FoodYour Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings,Your Miracle BrainZaitounZen Encounters with Loneliness
by Pema Chodron
Review by Wendy C. Hamblet, Ph.D. on Nov 26th 2013
Those many devoted readers who for decades have been enjoying and following the gentle, practical teachings of Anacharya Pema Chödrön, American Buddhist nun and head instructor of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada, may be tempted to think that, after all the books (a dozen and counting), the audio CDs (also almost a dozen), and the hundreds of lectures and retreats around the globe, “Ani Pema” may have nothing new to say to us, no new teachings to offer to call us to a life of greater courage, hope, and peace. Those readers would be very much mistaken. This latest little book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, took by surprise this seasoned enthusiast.
Living Beautifully gives us a new simple set of practices little highlighted in earlier lectures and books, except in the passing vague counsel that personal vows or aspirations, undertaken as part of one’s daily rituals, can keep one’s practice on track and set a healthy orientation for meeting the challenges that arise across one’s day. Here, we are given an explicit set of vows for embracing the chaos, riding the turbulent waves of everyday life, and finding joy even in the midst of the messy, unstable situations that compose the human condition. Rafts on the turbulent sea of becoming, three vows can help us along the path to accepting and even celebrating the world--just as it is.
First, Ani Pema describes the human predicament, the first “Noble Truth” of her tradition; the account is familiar to us all: we rarely get what we want and we get plenty of what we do not want. Life is fraught with unsatisfactoriness--in Sanskrit, dukkha. This unsatisfactoriness causes suffering--fundamental anxiety. But what if, she asks, instead of being disheartened by the ambiguity and uncertainty of life, we accept its churning turbulence, “relaxed into” the flux, “leaned into” the chaos? What if we sat back, as our fragile little rafts are tossed on the open sea of becoming, and, like the old philosopher Nietzsche, said “Yes! and Amen!” to existence--just as it is?
Chödrön offers us a story that allows us a stunning insight to build our courage for this shift of attitude. When her son was twelve, they found themselves on the tiny platform on the prow of a great ship, much like the famous scene in Titanic, when the lovers stand above the roaring waters, silhouetted against the sky (p. 11). In this dizzying place, then, her son pulling her forward, her fear pulling her back, Pema began to explain to her son her long-held dread of heights, recounting the symptoms, the physical sensations, the legs turning to mush. Her son was shocked to hear the indications; “Mom, that’s exactly what I feel!” She had an aversion attitude to the same feelings her son experienced as thrilling! The lesson is clear: like fearless white-water rafters or zip-line flyers, we can learn to accept the churning in our stomachs and the dizzying swirl in our heads as indicators that we are alive and living life to the fullest!
Pema now introduces us to the three vows, three practices for working with the eerie feelings that accompany the sense of groundlessness that strikes when we turn to face the flux of becoming, rather than turn away, hide, or run to favorite addictions to soothe our fears. The First Commitment, the Pratimoksha Vow, turns our attention to our own behaviors. It asserts the desire and intention to protect life; to respect the property of others; to refrain from sexual harmdoing; to practice right speech; and to avoid intoxicants. What is striking in Pema’s tradition, descending from Chogyam Trungpa (notorious in his time for his questionable interactions with young women devotees) is the refreshing lack of moralizing or guilt-tripping attached to the moral code. Indeed the code is more of a loose set of guidelines than a “code” at all, whose rules must always be submitted to the larger law of ahimsa (Do no harm). That is, if lying causes more good than truth, or if hiding a beaten dog from its owner is stealing, then we readily break the rule, as long as the harm is avoided.
The second commitment is then added to the daily ritual; the Bodhisattva Vow asserts a commitment to embrace every being with compassion, keeping our hearts and minds open and nurturing the desire to ease the suffering of the world. Having focused on self in the first vow (cultivating right action), and focused on the others in the second vow of compassionate caregiving, we then turn our attention toward reality and take the final pledge, the Samaya Vow, that commits us to seeing reality just as it is and refraining from adding the running commentary that passes judgments on everything we experience: this is good; this is terrible; life will never be the same after this; those people always do those terrible things! Sometimes maintaining calm, nonjudgmental equanimity, compassion for hurtful people, and a tight leash on our own good conduct, while others are attacking us, will prove a monumental challenge. But if we miss the goal one day, the beautiful thing about Pema’s tradition is that we always start just where we are: tomorrow we start all over again, vowing to do better this time.
One of the things I most appreciate about our favorite Anacharya is the wealth of literature from which she draws her insights. This is no strict, rigid religious dogmatism; anywhere wisdom is found, there Pema will go--science, novels, Time magazine, letters from devotees, news stories. I was especially struck in this new book by a reference made early on in the description of groundless being and our fearful and angry reactions to it. Citing neuroscientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, from her book, My Stroke of Insight, which Taylor wrote about her recovery from a massive stroke, Pema recounts Taylor’s explanation that the strongest emotions have a lifespan of a mere minute and a half. This message was revolutionary for me: it means that no matter what horrid thing happens, if I simply wait 90 seconds, the feeling will pass and I can get on with happier things. That married fool who hits on me in the hall, that neighborhood dog that just pooped once again at my front step--I can get over the worst insult if I just wait 90 seconds! The lesson is clear: we have to choose to continue to suffer, repeating over and over those 90 seconds of hell, renewing the resentment with each fresh cycle, fueling it with new story lines. Strong emotions can last for some people hours and weeks and sometimes their entire lifetimes! But if, on Pema’s counsel, we just watch the emotion fulfill its life cycle, with a sense of curiosity and kindness for ourselves, drop the stories and the blaming and the horrific predictions, in 90 seconds it will be behind us and we can get on with our day!
This little book is unfortunately an afternoon’s read; I say “unfortunately,” because it is one of those books you want to last for weeks. But every reader will be the better off for taking that afternoon to cuddle up by the fire with Pema and consider how life might be lived more sanely! And just remember--90 mere seconds, if you so choose!
© 2013 Wendy C. Hamblet
Wendy C. Hamblet, Ph.D., Professor, North Carolina A&T State University.