The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron

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Shadows.

That’s what I call the dark thoughts that emerge every night, thriving in the absence of light. I used to think that when dawn breaks and light floods the Earth, my troubles can be flushed away, banished to oblivion. It worked out well until the darkness encroached upon the my days, when I could see the shadows for what they truly are.

Shadows.

They exist when there’s light and goodness. They exist because you exist. For a majority of my life, I’ve been taught to face the sun, back turned against my shadows, blissfully oblivious and ignorant. Now the light shifts and I’m made to confront the amorphous black mass. Instincts kick me into a run, to seek a place of refuge, a sanctuary denied of uttering the possibilities of the shadows’ existence. A life of escaping is never sustainable when the race is rigged so grotesquely in the favour of the pursuant. They are YOUR shadows.

So why not stop running and try figuring out how live with your shadows?

“The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness” is a collection of speeches that pierces through the thick fog you have kept around you to keep the light out and prevent your shadows from emerging. It speaks of the true nature of life and points out the futility of your habituated attempts to attain some sense of escape from its grittiness.

One chapter that resonated with me was titled “No Such Thing as a True Story”. I grew up learning that it was important to have strong personal beliefs, to take a stand, to grow intellectually through thinking. This inner dialogue grabs at the abstract fluidity in your mind to transform them into solidity. And this served you well! How great it is to have real life align with your beliefs! How validating and satisfying is this for your ego. For a long time you believe everything that your mind produces, clasping them preciously in your palms, pressing them deep into your skin.

But when the reality of life, the lapses in the clockwork occurs, it becomes a problem. A fundamental and threatening one:

Holding on to beliefs limit our experience of life. That doesn’t mean that beliefs or ideas or thinking is a problem; the stubborn attitude of having things be a particular way, grasping on to our beliefs and thoughts, all these cause the problems. To put it simply, using your belief system this way creates a situation in which you choose to be blind instead of being able to see, to be deaf instead of being able to hear, to be dead rather than alive, asleep rather than awake.

Here’s the deal. The world is so fucking complex, so beyond your human’s cognitive capacities to comprehend. Holding on to your beliefs, so narrow relative to what actually is, limits your ability to take in a bigger perspective. When things do not go the way your thoughts tell you it should go, it leads to a consequential personal grudge against LIFE, one that conjures so much negativity and destruction within yourself.

Of course, a lot more insights were gleaned off this book which took two days of commuting time to savor. Two years ago, this would have been just another spiritual book beyond my comprehension. This time, it offers a wealth of answers and guidance to my little psychological struggles, making it so much more dear to me.

So, if you ever find yourself stuck in a rut, unable to shut off the incessant stream of inner thoughts, this gem of a book is a treasure trove of light beams to keep you going on your way.

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