On My Nightstand: Living Beautifully


I just finished reading Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  I have been to four funerals in the past five months and, boy, if that doesn’t bring up uncomfortable feelings of uncertainty and change….

It’s a quick read, only 140 pages, and in it she shares the hands-on basics of three commitments to handle the uncertainty of life.

Some of my favorite parts:

“An emotion like anger [is] an automatic response [that] lasts just ninety seconds from the moment it’s triggered until it runs its course.  One and a half minutes, that’s all.  When it lasts any longer, which it usually does, it’s because we’ve chosen to rekindle it.”

Hmmm, how many times have I let anger, fear, or resentment last longer than ninety seconds!

“Very simple: We’re either speaking or acting in order to escape, or we’re not.”  When we refrain from speaking or acting out, “we’re allowing ourselves to feel the underlying uncertainty – that edgy, restless energy – without trying to escape.  The escape routes are there, but we’re not using them.  We’re getting in touch with the feeling of fundamental uneasiness and relaxing with it rather than being run around by our thoughts and emotions.”

Escapes… like Facebook and Candy Crush, maybe?

“The problem with most people is that they are always trying to give out the bad and take in the good.  That has been the problem of society in general and the world altogether.”

With each section, she gives practical exercises, mostly in the form of very do-able meditations.  The last one called “tonglen” I finished reading the day before the most recent funeral, and I really tried to practice it during the ceremony.

As a quick example of tonglen… in the case of grief, you would focus on breathing in sorrow and breathing out comfort (seems opposite to my instincts – I typically would want to breathe in comfort and breathe out sorrow) How it most helped me was that I didn’t try to escape or numb out from the grief coming up and as a result, I ended up feeling more connected with the others grieving that day.

After you read Living Beautifully, check out these books for more inspiration.

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