Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist nun in the lineage of meditation master Chogyam Trungpa. She is resident teacher at Gampo Abbey, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery for Westerners in North America. Chodron is a Living Spiritual Teacher on Spirituality & Practice; in her profile you will find links to reviews of and excerpts from her books, audio lectures, e-courses, and more.
The teachings in Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change were originally given during a six-week winter retreat. Here Chodon presents her unconventional approach to the Three Vows — she calls them the Three Commitments — which must be taken in order to cope with the impermanence of life. She begins with a meditation on "The Fundamental Ambiguity of Being Human" where we relax into the unending cycles of change and suffering while savoring the awesomeness of having a passion for life. To do so, we must give up our dogmatic and fixed identity. Chodron wants us to live without a story line and take whatever shows up in our experiences.
The First Commitment is to not cause harm — an essential and life-giving spiritual practice. Put another way by the author: "The path of liberation begins with refraining from hurting ourselves and others." Those who take this route are cautioned to not get attached or enmeshed in the eight worldly concerns: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, fame and disgrace, praise and blame.
The Second Commitment is vowing to take care of one another. This entails moving out beyond our inner circle of family and friends with the practices of kindness and compassion. When we do experience our own pain and suffering, they can become the stepping stones for understanding the pain of others.
The Third Commitment is to embrace the world as it is. The Tibetan Buddhist master Dilgo Khyentse interprets what this means:
"The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, and to all people, experiencing everything totally without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself."
We need flexible personalities to set aside rigid habits and identities and open instead to the whole shebang without excluding anything. That is what arises from living beautifully with uncertainty and change.