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Lions Roar : September 2015
Now I want to read a quote from one of your teachings, in which you ask this rhetorical question: “What’s the most important thing to do with each day, with each morning, each afternoon, each evening?” And you answer: “The most impor- tant thing is to leave a gap.” What do you mean by that? Pema Chödrön: Well, it means... to leave a gap. [Laughter] We’re all so caught up in our habitual patterns that we’re not there for the world we’re immersed in. When they experience a gap, people often say, wow, it’s such a big world and I was so tunnel-visioned that I didn’t even realize the sky was there, and there were birds on the telephone wires. Tami Simon: So you’re recommending we get gappy, if you will. Pema Chödrön: Get gappy. Well, yes, that’s what I’m recom- mending. [Laughter] I highly recommend it, in fact. It will change your life, because it is very painful to be caught up in the tunnel vision of your habitual patterns. It’s very painful and it limits the potential of your short human life. You’re inside your head all the time and you miss so much. Of course, the reason why we get caught up is so we can miss the sorrow of life, but then we miss the beauty as well. Once you open, you’re open to the whole thing—both the sorrow and the beauty. This does require courage—to allow yourself to feel what you feel and be with yourself. But it connects you After the conversation, lang returned to perform a set for the sellout crowd, concluding with “Hallelujah.” with humanity; you realize your interconnectedness with other people. It’s a whole different experience of being alive. Rather than just trying to get through the day, with a heavy heart and shame and depression and all those things, it feels really alive. You can create gaps purposely, through practices like taking three conscious breaths. But another way to do it is to just let life stop your mind. Say there’s a sudden sound, like a backfire of a car, or a crow cawing—anything that sort of stops your mind. When that happens, you catch it and let that moment expand for two or three more seconds. You see the way your mind has stopped and you’re not caught up anymore. In the more profound Buddhist teachings, the gap becomes even more important, as a way to rest your mind in its natural state. It allows you to see clearly the natural openness and fresh- ness of your mind when it is not caught up in habitual patterns. Tami Simon: Can you point us in the right direction in terms of relating to the pain of the world, events like the recent shooting in the African-American church in Charlottesville or the devas- tating earthquake in Nepal? It’s very challenging for me, and I think for many people, to know how to relate to that suffering in an openhearted way, without shutting down because it feels like too much to bear. Pema Chödrön: I think it’s the same practice, whether it’s on a big scale, like the heartbreak and injustice of the shooting, or SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2015 48