Positive Groundlessness

Pema Chödrön
A free video tutorial from Pema Chödrön
4.7 instructor rating • 3 courses • 62,118 students

Lecture description

Questions for Reflection:

  • Are you aware of what it feels like to “get hooked,” as Pema introduces the concept during this section? What does getting hooked look and feel like for you?
  • What is your understanding of the notion of “positive groundlessness” as introduced during this section?

Learn more from the full course

Sounds True's Freedom to Choose Something Different, Part 1

Pema Chodron on How to Transform Your Life and Find Lasting Peace and Happiness

04:37:02 of on-demand video • Updated July 2016

  • Recognize negative patterns of behavior and negative reactions to people and circumstances in daily life
  • Understand Buddhist lessons on the Three Difficult Practices in order to move away from negative patterns and establish positive reactions
  • Release suffering that is caused by being hooked to old habits, making room for joy and freedom
English So I think tonight what I'd like to do is not keep you here too long but introduce the kind of basic ideas that I want to work with this weekend with all of you. So in preparing for this I read the blurb in the catalog . It's always good to be in sync with what they say you're going to do. And and so the blurb goes something like this the title of the retreat is choosing a fresh alternative and that in a way is the pith kind of instruction for the weekend. Is choosing a fresh alternative. But obviously you need a lot more information on what I mean by that. And I think that's a lot of what the weekend will be about. But in reading the blurb which I meant to bring down with me but I forgot the catalog and my glasses is really kind of very interesting. So in case any of you are feeling discombobulated but it says something like this is a real treat for people who are interested in seeing how we get stuck and then noticing that when we get stuck or get hooked up in an attempt to get away from that uncomfortable place we in fact set off a chain reaction of habitual patterns that makes make matters worse. We kind of in order to get out of an uncomfortable place we as we as I said set off a chain reaction of habitual patterns thought patterns or speech patterns or action patterns that actually escalate the discomfort. So that's the first thing that it says and I'd like to say a few words about that. It's interesting that one of the most basic teachings of Buddhism is that everybody wants to be happy . Any of you have ever been to anything led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. No that he always talks about this that all beings want to be happy that it's what we have in common and do not want to suffer. I found personally in teaching this that we as a western species are so peculiar that there are a lot of people have trouble with the word happiness. You know a Tibetan teacher a Japanese teacher a Southeast Asian teacher would never dream that someone would have trouble with the simple statement that all beings want to be happy but believe me I've heard a lot of arguments that that people just I don't know about that. Well now in fact if I would just open it up to the mike now we probably spend the rest of the evening discussing this point. It's so interesting because you know a teacher from another culture comes to work with us and has these assumptions like you could just say you know. Well the basic ground is that all beings want to be happy that's And you know everybody knows that but it's a little more complicated. But I think if you change the language a little bit and you say is there anybody in the room who actually is seeking a stressful anxiety ridden life any hands then you then it begins to be a language that makes a little more sense to us because everybody is plagued by that sense of anxiety depression and stress speed. And so one basic one of the basic teachings of the Buddha is that what everyone has in common all cultures throughout history is that nobody likes to be in that situation and is seeking for relief from that which is in the case of the traditional Buddhist teachings is called happiness. But I think of you think of it as relief from anxiety and depression and stress. And then you can all nod your head and say Yes this I think we all do have in common. Right. More or less. But then the teachings go on and I've always loved this to say that even though everybody has that in common that it's something that's the same about all of us whether we're in the United States whether we're in Europe or South America Africa the Middle East no matter where we were born or what are in a how much money we have or what our education was or anything. But then the teachings go on to say everybody wants that and everyone is trying to find ways to get comfortable and secure. But our methods are not in sync with our of the goal that we seek. There is a sort of basic statement made by the Buddha that the way we go about getting happiness goes along with my blurb which is that we in order in with the sincere intention of seeking relief we go about it in a way that makes matters worse which is why year after year after year we never seem to be getting out of the hole you know and why I suppose we come to you know spend four days at Omega Institute listening to Pema Chodron and spending a lot of money to do it. So the weekend is going to be a lot about that that in in Japanese Buddhism they call it koan. You know that's sort of unsolvable question or that question that doesn't have a conceptual answer like how to when we realize that we're hooked and the chain reaction is just about to start of habitual response to discomfort. How to choose a fresh alternative. In other words how instead of choosing a route that always seems to intensify habits that cause suffering . How to choose how to do something different. There's a very pithy Buddhist teaching that says there are. Do do what you can to frack to practice the three difficult practices. Practice the three difficult practices and the three difficult practices are first of all acknowledging that you're hooked. And tomorrow morning I'm going to be talking a lot about that. So I say it's difficult to even see that it's happening. But actually I've found in working with people with this that people can see it pretty can catch it pretty quickly and pretty easily once they get the hang of it. And once it's sort of been pointed out as a meditation practice that you can do continually throughout your life. But the next step is not so easy. And that's called Do Something Different choose a fresh alternative. So this is to say when you notice you're hooked. What we're going to be talking about is first of all noticing. And second of all doing something different. And I'll be talking about what what the habitual response is and what we might do that would be different to interrupt the momentum that keeps causing suffering to go on and on and on. So the first difficult practice is to acknowledge or even notice to catch it. Second difficult practice which I find people who've been practicing for 40 years still have trouble getting this one. And that is doing something different. Just the other day I was having a discussion with someone who's been practicing literally for about 40 years. It's a very solid practitioner does a lot of retreat practice. And in fact I just come from doing some solitary retreat and and he was in a cabin on the same land and we were talking and and it and it happened something triggered him. We were he had just gotten a letter and something in the letter triggered him. It had to do with someone criticizing his work and he just started in on this rant about it being this other person's fault. Now it may have been you know if we were to vote on it or something but I said I just pointed out because we had just had a long discussion about this and and the teacher that we work with Sigger control remember she had just been talking about this. And so I pointed out and I said Well don't give even two seconds to strengthening that mind habit of resentment. Don't even give it two seconds or one second or a half a second of your energy because if you just pause and use your intelligence she'll see that it's not going to solve anything and it's just going to make you more and more stuck in this pattern and make you very unhappy. Ranting on and on about this person whose fault it was and there's a lot of practices that maybe you have done where you go to your body and you can actually feel the tension in your body and so forth . But I said to him don't even give it two seconds. And I knew that he he knew what I was talking about and he there was a kind of an openness in his face and a relaxation in his body and a clear clearness in his his eyes and in that pause I sort of interjected and I said you know it's just like all over the world we see the results of people just getting hooked and that's not the problem in fact. That's going to happen and it will continue to happen for a long time until we've worn out that habit . But the rehab. The problem is even if we catch it we do just what he did at this very moment which was after the eyes opening getting clearer and there being a kind of relaxation and openness then he said yes but. And he started to justify it in certain cases there's practical issues and you really have to deal with them. And I kept saying Hey you're doing it again. And and then I I wasn't really coming from a place of having my hands all that clean on this issue. You know I I could recognise it in him extremely clearly but I knew so well the power of that yes but fire. You know like you almost cannot bear to not jump into that river and be carried away by that undertow .