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: “We act out because, ironically, we think it will bring us some relief. We equate it with happiness. Often there is some relief, for the moment. When you have an addiction and you fulfill that addiction, there is a moment in which you feel some relief. Then the nightmare gets worse…On the other hand, if we begin to surrender to ourselves—begin to drop the story line and experience what all this messy stuff behind the story line feels like—we begin to find bodhichitta, the tenderness that’s under all that harshness. By being kind to ourselves, we become kind to others. By being kind to others—if it’s done properly, with proper understanding—we benefit as well.” (Selection 57: Start Where You Are, 34)
This New Years Eve, I participated in a Zen meditation gathering at the Center for Transformative Change in Berkeley, in which we let go of unnecessary attachments from 2010 and greeted 2011 with a new openness. I have struggled with an unhealthy on-and-off addiction to caffeine and nicotine. Underneath this addiction is a failure to be kind to myself and to honor the bodhichitta within.
Spiritual teacher/activist Angel Kyodo Williams led us in the “letting go” ceremony, in which we drew a picture of our attachments and then threw them in an outdoor fire, which continued to burn despite the rain. I let go of unkindness towards myself.
Chödrön: “ ‘This very moment is the perfect teacher, and it’s always with us’ is really a most profound teaching. Just see what’s going on—that’s the teaching right there. We can be with what’s happening and not dissociate. Awakeness is found in our pleasure and our pain, our confusion and our wisdom, available in each moment of our weird, unfathomable, ordinary everyday lives” (Selection 59: When Things Fall Apart, 17)
(I let go of unkindness towards myself.)
More realistically, I affirmed my decision to continue in the long and arduous process of letting go of unkindness towards myself. I have quit nicotine at least 50 times and am not presumptuous enough to assume that this will be the last time. Samael Aun Weor taught that an individual has 108 chances to overcome attachments, so I still have a few more opportunities left to let go.
This apparently auspicious number 108 came up in the Zen meditation gathering as we welcomed the New Year with 108 chimes of a bell, thus affirming the process of letting go and allowing the process to be our perfect teacher.