The teachings of Pema Chodron show us, even if it is difficult to assimilate, how life is more like a great swift and turbulent river than the placid lake that we sometimes imagine. Like fearful beings, we sometimes cling firmly to the edge of this river for fear of falling into its deep waters. And it is precisely this fear which supposes an obstacle to us feeling totally alive.
This Buddhist teacher, author of many books, offers us three keys to learning to move forward in the turbulent river of life, enduring chaos, uncertainty and change. These keys are known as the three commitments. They can be a good guide to “being fully present” and being courageous in this world which sometimes seems to want to suffocate us.
This rudder called certainty
We value certainties enormously, don’t we? We live in a world where change is constant. Nothing remains (or little) and everything is in motion. And sometimes we cling with all our might to the utopia of a safe, controllable and trustworthy life.
Uncertainty is able to generate terrible anxiety, anchoring the person to ideas of inability to overcome obstacles and making him trapped in his own thoughts about this fear. The chaos in which life thrives can be summed up in three very simple concepts:
- Uncertainty, or not knowing what’s going on
- Unpredictability, or not knowing what will happen tomorrow
- The complexity of things that are interconnected
Much of the awkwardness of human beings comes from this tendency to want to feel the ground beneath their feet and cling to the dream of constant well-being. Often times, people resist change because it takes that security away from us.
This resistance to change causes a lot of suffering. It also deprives us of the freedom to awaken and discover our true nature. But, what if, instead of being lost in ambiguity and uncertainty, we simply accept them as a fact that we cannot change and take it easy? What if we stop resisting change? What if we decided to sit down and enjoy the trip?
Pema Chodron and the three commitments
The Tibetan Buddhist teachings offered by Master Pema Chodron consist of keys in the form of commitments to oneself. They are simple instructions that help to come to terms with the chaotic, dynamic, defiant and changing nature of life. These three commitments are:
- Pratimoksha Vow. This first commitment tells us to do everything possible not to cause harm with our actions, our words or our thoughts. It is a series of lessons through which we learn to work our thoughts and emotions. Thanks to them, we refrain from speaking or acting while confused. It is the basis of personal liberation.
- Bodhisattva Vow. We are committed to dedicating our lives to keeping our hearts and minds open and developing our compassion in order to alleviate the suffering of the world.
- Samaya Vow. It is about the resolve to embrace the world as it is, without prejudice. We are committed to seeing all that we find good and bad, joyful and painful, as manifestations of awakened energy.
These teachings from Pema Chodron are, in reality, tools for dealing with chaos and all the unpredictable things that can happen in life. They teach us to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing what comes next, namely to deal with change. They help us acquire certain skills to learn to face the large number of challenges that life throws at us.
We can deal with chaos by learning to transform our minds as the changes happen. We can learn to improvise and be confident. On the other hand, we can overcome uncertainty by accepting it, instead of fighting against it. Once we overcome these barriers, we will enjoy a much more beautiful outlook on life. The vision of what it really is: a constant adventure.