Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears

Chödrön’s latest book teaches the simple art of remaining present and overcoming distraction.

Faced with the scope of the planet’s present challenges, not to mention our own day-to-day difficulties, it’s not surprising that we sometimes feel the need to numb ourselves to the world around us. The obvious drawback to this survival tactic, notes Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, is that we can wind up missing the whole show. The here and now is where life happens, after all. That’s why Chödrön’s latest book teaches the simple art of remaining present with what is and overcoming the attraction to distractions by becoming mindful of ways we become “hooked” by destructive mind-states.

Chödrön uses the Tibetan word shenpa to describe the condition of being triggered — those unconscious moments when our best intentions get steamrolled by angry outbursts or channeled into trips to the refrigerator. Instead of submitting thoughtlessly to shenpa, Chödrön suggests a series of simple interventions (pausing, breathing, reflecting with humor) that interrupt the cycle of reactivity and lead naturally to a more gentle, receptive state of being. When we interrupt aggression at the source, she argues, we are helping to interrupt it in the wider world, as well. This is Pema Chödrön at her best, offering uncomplicated wisdom for complex times.

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