Chodron Advice

"The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. It is an issue that applies to everyone, including Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there's some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there's always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves. Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves.

Nontheism is finally realizing that there's no babysitter that you can count on. You just get a good one and he or she is gone. Nontheism is realizing that it's not just the babysitters that come and go. The whole of life is like that. This is the truth, and the truth is inconvenient.

Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can't simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what's going on, but that there's something missing in us, and therefor something is lacking in our world.

Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That's the compassionate thing to do. That's the brave thing to do. We could smell that piece of shit. We could feel it; what is its texture, color, and shape?

We can explore the nature of that piece of shit. We can know the nature of dislike, shame, and embarrassment not believe there's something wrong with that. We can drop the fundamental hope that there is a better "me" who one day will emerge. We can't just jump over ourselves as if we were not there. It's better to take a straight look at all our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence in our sanity arises."

-- Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

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