“Be Grateful to Everyone”

Pema Chodron

Consider this:

If we were to make a list of people we don’t like – people we find obnoxious, threatening, or worthy of contempt – we would find out a lot about those aspects of ourselves that we can’t face. If we were to come up with one word about each of the troublemakers in our lives, we would find ourselves with a list of descriptions of our own rejected qualities, which we project onto the outside world. The people who repel us unwittingly show the aspects of ourselves that we find unacceptable, which otherwise we can’t see. […]

“Be grateful to everyone” is getting at a complete change of attitude. This slogan is not wishy-washy and naive. It does not mean that if you’re mugged on the street you should smile knowingly and say “Oh, I should be grateful for this” before losing consciousness. This slogan actually gets at the guts of how we perfect ignorance through avoidance, not knowing we’re eating poison, not knowing that we’re putting another layer of protection over our heart, not seeing the whole thing.

“Be grateful to everyone” means that all situations teach you, and often it’s the tough ones that teach you the best. There may be a Juan or Juanita in your life, and Juan or Juanita is the one who gets you going. They’re the ones who don’t go away: your mother, your husband, your wife, your lover, your child, the person that you have to work with every single day, part of the situation you can’t escape. There’s no way that someone else can tell you exactly what to do, because you’re the only one who knows where it’s torturing you, where your relationship with Juan or Juanita is getting into your guts.

From Start Where You Are : A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodron, Copyright 1994, Shambhala Publications.

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