this tendency that we have to seek pleasure and avoid pain

samThe essence of samsara is this tendency that we have to seek pleasure and avoid pain, to seek security and avoid groundlessness, to seek comfort and avoid discomfort. The basic teaching is that that is how we keep ourselves miserable, unhappy, and stuck in a very small, limited view of reality. That is how we keep ourselves enclosed in a cocoon. Out there are all the planets and all the galaxies and vast space, but you’re stuck in this cocoon… Life in [the cocoon] is cozy and secure. We’ve gotten it all together. It’s safe, it’s predictable, it’s convenient, and it’s trustworthy…

…Our mind is always seeking zones of safety. We’re in this zone of safety and that’s what we consider life, getting it all together, security. [We imagine that] death is losing that. That’s what we fear, that’s what makes us anxious. You could call death an embarrassment – feeling awkward and off the mark. Being totally confused and not knowing which way to turn could also describe death, which we fear so much. We want to know what’s happening. The mind is always seeking zones of safety, and those zones of safety are continually falling apart. Then we scramble to get another zone of safety back together again. We spend all our energy and waste our lives trying to re-create those zones of safety, which are always falling apart. That’s samsara.

“The opposite of samsara is when all the walls fall down, when the cocoon completely disappears and we are totally open to whatever may happen, with no withdrawing, no centralizing into ourselves. That is what we aspire to, the warrior’s journey. That’s what stirs us and inspires us: leaping, being thrown out of the nest, going through the initiation rites, growing up, stepping into something that’s uncertain and unknown. From that point of view, death becomes this comfort and this security and this cocoon… That’s death. [From that point of view, samsara] is preferring death to life.” — Pema Chödrön

More Pema Chödrön on Beyond Meds here

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters