Christmas with Chödrön VI

This Christmas, a friend gave me The Pocket Pema Chödrön, which includes 108 brief insights from the books of the beloved Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön. I’m committing to blog on Chödrön’s wisdom for each of the twelve days of Christmas. Because the number 108 held such energy for me, I have decided to limit my reflections and comments to 108 words, which is really not very much at all! But it will be a good Christmas challenge. Since God was able to limit the Infinite to one tiny baby, I can at least try to limit my ramblings to 108 words…

Chödrön: “It was Pogo, a cartoon character created by Walt Kelly, who said, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’ … The cause of confusion and bewilderment and pollution and violence isn’t really someone else’s problem: it’s something we can come to know in ourselves…Bernard Glassman Roshi, who does a lot of work with the homeless in New York, said that he doesn’t  work with the homeless because he’s such a great guy but because going into the areas of society that he has rejected is the only way to make friends with the parts of himself that he’s rejected. It’s all interrelated. We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves. That’s a very important point.” (Selection 47: Start Where You Are, 132)

According to Catholic philosopher Jean Vanier, “The worst enemy is inside our own hearts not outside.” Chödrön and Vanier encourage me to befriend the enemy within for, by doing so; I become less inclined to project my self-hate and inner enemy onto others. Non-violent action begins with non-violence in my heart. At the same time, non-violence towards myself depends on non-violence towards others.

Somehow this way of looking at things gives me a new perspective on the teachings of Jesus, who challenged his disciples: “Love your enemies.” Perhaps Jesus knew that our greatest enemy was ourselves. And that that would be the hardest thing for us to love.

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