Why Buddhist Teacher Pema Chödrön Says There's No Need For Self-Improvement

The Huffington Post, Dec 12, 2014

The start of a new year is a natural time to reflect on where you've been and where you want to go. But before you start making a resolution list of self-improvements, watch this "Super Soul Sunday" clip with world-renowned Buddhist teacher and best-selling author Pema Chödrön. As one of the first Western women to be fully ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun, Chödrön teaches how ancient Buddhist principles apply to our modern lives.

In her book Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, Chödrön writes: "We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement." That line stuck with Oprah, who asks Chödrön to explain.

Chödrön says we need to stop telling ourselves "there's something wrong with me." For example, there is nothing wrong with way you look, she says, or the way you keep your home. "That's what I'm getting at, is if self-improvement means that I'm going to be different than I am now," she says. Instead, we should tell ourselves "there's nothing wrong here. I haven't done anything wrong."

To embrace that view, Chödrön says we must first acknowledge anything obstructing it. "Let's know our rage. Let's know our fear. Let's know our resentment," she says. "And by knowing it, listening to what you say about yourself and letting some of that negative self-talk go, then the fundamental thing is there."

Chödrön compares our negative self-talk to clouds obstructing the sun -- an idea that Oprah connects with strongly.

"That's why I love that moment in the plane when it's raining, if it's pouring rain on the ground, and you get in the airplane," Oprah says. "And you shoot up above the clouds, and there is the sun. It's always there."

"It never went anywhere, actually," Chödrön adds. "That is a classic image for basic wholeness or basic worthiness or basic goodness."