Sam Radford

October 20, 2021

Killing the moment by controlling our experience

My friend Ryan sent me this powerful quote from the American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön earlier:

We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who's awake, that's death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self-contained and comfortable, is some kind of death. It doesn't have any fresh air. There's no room for something to come in and interrupt all that. We are killing the moment by controlling our experience. Doing this is setting ourselves up for failure, because sooner or later, we're going to have an experience that we can't control: our house is going to burn down, someone we love is going to die, we're going to find out we have cancer, a brick is going to fall out of the sky and hit us on the head... To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.

The quote is from Chödrön’s book When Things Fall Apart

That last sentence in particular is striking: 

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.

It’s a strange quirk of human nature, it seems, to try and control what is uncontrollable. It’s a fools game. We never attain the control we seek and so we’re left in a state of perpetual discontent.

Better to learn to ride life’s unpredictable waves than to think we can protect ourselves from being hit by them. It’ll save us from ‘killing the moment by controlling our experience’.

–Sam

Got some thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you – do hit reply or drop me a note.

@samradford | samradford.com