Prologue from The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
When I teach I begin with a compassionate aspiration. I express the wish that we will apply the teachings in our everyday lives and thus free ourselves and others from suffering.
During the talk, I encourage the audience to keep an open mind. This is often likened to the wonder of a child seeing the world without preconceptions. As the Zen master Suzuki Roshi put it, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” At the end of the talk, I dedicate them merit of the occasion to all beings.
This gesture of universal friendship has been likened to a drop of fresh spring water. If we put it on a rock in the sunshine it will soon evaporate. If we put it in the ocean, however, it will never be lost. Thus the wish is made that we not keep the teachings to ourselves but use them to benefit others.
This approach reflects what are called the three noble principles: good in the beginning, good in the middle, good at the end. They can be used in all activities of our lives. We can begin anything we do – start our day, eat a meal, or walk into a meeting – with the intention to be open, flexible, and
kind. Then we can proceed with an inquisitive attitude. As my teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, “Live your life as an experiment.”
At the end of the activity, whether we feel we have succeeded or failed in our intention, we seal the act by thinking of others, of those who are succeeding and failing all over the world. We wish that anything we learned in our experiment could also benefit others.
In this spirit, I offer this guide on the training of the compassionate warrior. May it be of benefit at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. May it help move us toward the places that scare us. May it inform our lives and help us to die with no regrets.