Natural Wakefulness: Pema Chodron

Pema-Chodron2Length: 9 minutes, 33 seconds

Memorable Quote:  During a sit, there are only two times that we are actually meditating: the beginning and the end.

Synopsis: Pema wants to talk about “not meditating,” but doesn’t want to ruin it by calling it anything formal. She fears that by formalizing it, we will tense up, take good posture and start to get nervous about our breath. The only times during a meditation that we seem to be completely focused is when the gong is rung, when we are earnestly there with our breath. During the meditation itself, we often see thoughts, sounds, and bodily sensations as a distraction, instead of an object for the meditation itself. It is easier to be relaxed and connected before we label an activity “meditation” or “non-meditation.”

During this “non-meditative” practice, we can cultivate our natural awareness. We may meditate on a variety of objects, including our body, emotions, our mind and our sense-perceptions. But in between these particular meditations, we can simply be fully present, in open awareness, harnessing our natural wakefulness. We might call this “do nothing” meditation. Two images that may help us get to this natural, open state are 1) when we come home from a long day at work and collapse on a couch; or 2) looking at fresh things with the eyes of a child, like when a child visits a museum and looks at paintings. In the latter scenario, a child looking at a Picasso may not even know what it is, but instead might just appreciate and engage with the colors, shapes and contours.

I like: Pema Chodron is unmatched in her ability to make the teachings accessible and funny to the listener.

I wish: I wish she had said more about how non-meditation can function in our practice. Is it just a break from placing attention on objects, or is it something to be cultivated on its own?

Link to Full Talk

More about the Speaker: Beloved Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother, Pema Chödrön has inspired millions of people from around the world who have been touched by her example and message of practicing peace in these turbulent times. Learn more at



  1. Pema Chodron is a wonderful tcheaer, of whom I have the greatest respect. This is another example of her down-to-earth, humorous and loving teaching style. For me, it was an excellent choice. However, just so you are not disappointed, be aware this is a specific type of meditation. She is teaching Tibetan Buddhist meditation techniques, which are a little different from other styles. In this style your eyes remain partly open to maintain a level of awareness. It is not the type you use to generate a trance state.If you are unfamiliar with meditation and this is your first exploration, you may want to look at The Art of Meditation by Daniel Goleman . It is an excellent first step.Pema’s training can take you to a deeper level of understanding, but may be a little too deep for your first attempt. Also, the fact her CD is speaking to those who have a background in Buddhism does’nt mean you won’t learn from this CD. Buddhist are experts at meditation because it is part of their belief. The techniques taught can apply to any faith.Pema’s Chodron is an excellent speaker and this is another excellent example of her work. With the understanding that I would not advise this as the first meditation book I would read/listen to, I believe it is a valuable resource for those interested in this style of meditation.Namaste

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