Tag Archives: Pema Chodron

The Fullness of Joy

We do not have to die to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
In fact we have to be fully alive.
Thich Naht Hahn, Touching Peace, 8

Joy: A Continual Feast

One of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Pema Chödrön, writes:

Authentic joy is not a euphoric state or a feeling of being high.
Rather, it is a state of appreciation that allows us to participate fully in our lives.
The Places that Scare You, 79

Paul made this same connection. Most people are familiar with the line “the peace of God will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” but we should take a look at what surrounds that passage:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-5

Paul connects the practice of living gently – with thanksgiving and peacefulness – with being joyful!

When you are filling your life with rejoicing, there’s no room left for worry or anxiety. You empty your life of that worry and anxiety in order to make room for gentleness and joy to fill your life, buoyed by thankful prayer.

And the result of living this kind of life? Deep, abiding peace moves in to guard your very soul.

Proverbs 15 declares that a “joyful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15b). A continual feast! That bounty is already all around us: in God’s presence, in the beauty of our world, in the pleasures of living. It is joy that opens up our eyes to live fully into that goodness.

Practices of Fullness

So how do we actually bring this kind of authentic presence into our daily lives?

Here are five practices I use to participate fully in my life. (Note: None of these will be surprising or at all original. But these are often suggested because they are indeed effective and helpful.)

  • Mindfulness – I took a mindfulness course recently, and I’ve been using some of the really basic practices learned there: a daily practice of mindful breathing, fostering compassion for myself and those around me, bringing awareness into my body and present experience, etc.

  • Running – Running has always been an important practice for me. It gives my brain time and space to relax, to just kind of float with me while I run the beautiful neighborhoods of the East Bay. Running also helps me balance my health and sleep better.

  • Journaling – I write, a lot. I try to also let myself draw when I feel led to, even though I’m not a very gifted visual artist. I write a lot of poetry, just to be able to express emotions that are holding me, so I can better move through them.

  • Gratitude – Nothing kills anxiety like a good gratitude list. This is a practice I’d like to grow more. Listing things – small or significant – for which I’m grateful is always calming and healing for me. (If you want to develop a practice of gratitude, check out Ann’s resources.)

  • Solitude – Because I’m someone who can easily fill up my life with other people’s feelings and words, I need to be sure to practice aloneness, so I become familiar with the ground of my own experience. Usually, this means prayer, worship, or hiking for me. I take the time to really ask myself what I need to relax, and then I make space for that activity to happen.

Share with us: what practices help you cultivate joy? How do you empty your life of anxiety and worry to make room for gentleness and joy? What does it mean to you to live fully?


Living fully alive is a big theme for me! Want to read more about why I think living fully alive is an important part of the Christian life? Check out this post or this one or this one



Filed under My Faith Journey, Spirituality, Theology and Faith

Learning not to armor our basic goodness

This is the path we take in cultivating joy:
learning not to armor our basic goodness,

learning to appreciate what we have.
Most of the time we don’t do this.
Rather than appreciate where we are,
we continually struggle and nurture our dissatisfaction.
It’s like we are trying to get the flowers to grow
by pouring cement on the garden.
Pema Chödrön, The Places that Scare You

Take this moment, right now,
right where you are,
to take off your armor.

Find one place, one tiny crack, in your shield,
and widen it.
Find on weakness in the brittle hardness
that covers your self-compassion,
and soften it quietly.

Be sure to take a deep breath:
it may feel a little unsettling, exposing.
Notice the chain reaction when you find that starting place:
what happens when you relax your shoulders,
when you unclench your fists,
when you straighten your slumped back?
What happens in your body? in your spirit?

Feel all the way down into the soles of your feet,
and see if you can feel the tiny rootlets growing out of them,
anchoring you to the soft, sweet earth.

Can you feel them drinking?

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Filed under Musings, Spirituality

Cleaning House

The essence of bravery is being without self-deception.
However, it’s not so easy to take a straight look at what we do.
Seeing ourselves clearly is initially uncomfortable and embarrassing…
A warrior begins to take responsibility for the direction of her life.
(Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You)


Self Examination

Lent is a season of self-reflection, a time to consider our lives and habits, to root out those things that have become addictions and to re-orient our hearts back toward God.

I’ve been wondering lately when the idea of self-reflection became something guilt-ridden and negative. Sometimes when we speak about Lent, our language is soaked with heavy words like sin and death. We talk about sacrifice and self-deprivation, as though the only way to examine one’s life is to find the fault.

If we instead understand self-reflection as a crucial piece of the process of spiritual formation, it will deeply shift the practice of critically examining our lives. Instead of a time for grief, this is a time for rejoicing! Instead of an act of contrition, this is an act of courage.

Cleaning House

I imagine the process of self-reflection as though I am cleaning my home, neglected for many months and cluttered with things.

I pick up each item, I think about where it truly belongs, how it can be used best. As I put each back in its proper place, it becomes not just a thing, but a precious piece of my life. I re-connected with the memories and meaning associated with each possession. I find some things I no longer need, and some things I have forgotten were here.

The process is like a cleansing, a taking stock of what has become my life. It is not that I have changed my desires, my fears, my aspirations, my skills – I have become more aware of their presence, more connected to their impact on my life.

– – –

This Lent, what have you found during your house cleaning? What do you need to add to make your “home” complete? What are you excited to have re-discovered? What have you decided to remove, to keep, to alter?

Note: The photos are from the beautifully secluded labyrinth at Sibley and the impromptu altar at its center. Check it out if you’re in the Bay area!

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Filed under Lent 2012: Rend Your Hearts, My Faith Journey, Spirituality, Theology and Faith