Quaker Universalist Conversations

Unconditional well-being

Acharya Pema Chödrön is principal teacher for Gampo Abbey, a Western Buddhist Monastery in the Shambhala Tradition, located in Nova Scotia, Canada, which was founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1984.

She has written several books: “The Wisdom of No Escape,” “Start Where You Are”, “When Things Fall Apart,” “The Places that Scare You,” “No Time to Lose,” and “Practicing Peace in Times of War,” and, most recently, “Smile at Fear.” All are available from Shambhala Publications.

This excerpt is from The Pocket Pema Chödrön, pp.28-29.

Acharya Pema Chödrön

When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless.

You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. Your world seems less solid, more roomy and spacious. The burden lightens.

In the beginning it might feel like sadness or a shaky feeling, accompanied by a lot of fear, but your willingness to feel the fear, to make fear your companion, is growing. You’re willing to get to know yourself at this deep level.

After a while this same feeling begins to turn into a longing to be fully human and to live in your world without always having to shut down and close off when certain things come along. It begins to turn into a longing to be there for your friends when they’re in trouble, to be of real help to this poor, aching planet.

Curiously enough, along with this longing and this sadness and this tenderness, there’s an immense sense of well-being, which doesn’t have anything to do with pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad, hope or fear, disgrace or fame.

It’s something that comes to you when you feel that you can keep your heart open.

And so it is.

Blessèd Be,
Mike Shell


This is a wonderful post. Yes…to keep one’s heart open. “Love your enemy” is where it’s at for me. Who or what is my enemy? For some Friends, it may be memories of adolescent experiences of Christianity that make them cringe today, that make them detest anything “Christian.” Alas, some Friends who are allergic to Christianity lump all Christians as their enemy – or all expressions of Christianity as their enemy. Perhaps, they find refuge in Buddhism or another religion, leaving Christianity behind, thinking they’ve found a more mature, reasonable religion than Christianity, even poo-pooing Christianity. They may embrace “interfaith” except for Christianity. A lifelong Friend, I caught myself looking down on Southern Baptists, being surrounded by Southern Baptists in a very Southern Baptisty city. I didn’t want to go there. And, I’ve diligently tried loving all, embracing all religious paths as valid, as they reflect some aspect of my own path. I say to myself: that’s where they are at present – and, perhaps, for their whole lives; just as I have deeply held beliefs that I expect to carry for the rest of this lifetime, that I “preach” to others, perhaps without knowing it. As I try to keep my heart open, encompassing the Universe in my heart, I try not to be offended by others’ beliefs. I try to love my enemy – especially, when the enemy is within. I find it most interesting when a non-religious is offended by Christian expressions and Christians and demands respect and acknowledgment from Christians, yet does not offer respect and acknowledgment to Christians and Christian expressions in return. I’d like to read of Friends’ experiences of transforming memories of miserable Christian upbringings into appreciating or embracing Christianity, the why’s and how’s and processes.
We need to remember that Jesus was open to all people. He did not discriminate against any of God’s children. He would go to dine with those who were held in contempt by the society of that day. He would ask the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. He bid all children to come unto Him. All people need to hear the message of non-discrimination and not putting down those of other beliefs than their own. This is the example God, our Father, and God, our Father’s Son sacrificed on the Cross for our sins, set for our lives here on earth. People from a lot of walks of life may believe in the same God. Judgement is for the Lord and not for us to use. The Lord will decide in the coming of Christ back to earth and the rising of the people to meet Him who is worthy by belief in Christ. He is the final authority on who lives an eternal life in Heaven with Him.
In the real (read:socio-political) human world, we look only to toleration of religious belief (the biblical “worship without fear”); yet, what we inwardly look for is freedom of belief (or “worship in spirit and truth”) which is with (love) rather than just without (fear). An open heart can be just as vacuous of love as an open mind can be without fear.
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