OPRAH: It takes you out of the discussion.

PEMA: And it closes you off from the amazing capacity that we have to be completely open and loving.

OPRAH: So the more you meditate...

PEMA: The more you have a lightness about what's occurring in your life. But it's not about becoming indifferent to life's experiences; it actually allows you to be much more present with whatever arises because you experience it from this timeless space. You're fully engaged, but you see it from a different perspective. One way to think of it is, at the moment of your death, how significant will winning that argument seem?

OPRAH: So when you meditate and feel the oneness and love that connect us all, it makes the other stuff in the world seem more mundane. But trying to feel that we're all connected can be hard considering how much of the conflict in our world is based on people believing that they're right and the other person or group is wrong.

PEMA: Sometimes people's spiritual ideas become fixed and they use them against those who don't share their beliefs—in effect, becoming fundamentalist. It's very dangerous—the finger of righteous indignation pointing at someone who is identified as bad or wrong. You get a lot of false security from that, and the underlying tenderheartedness that's available in all of us turns into a hard view of other people. But when you know yourself at a very deep level, you know other people. Then it's very hard to condemn them when their minds get sick or carried away by emotionality, because you've seen it in yourself.

OPRAH: It goes back to the idea of trying to manage the ego so your life isn't controlled by it. So much of the pain and suffering we all endure is because we can't keep the ego in check.

PEMA: If you're always trying to get things to work out so that it's all pleasure and no pain, then you're going to be stuck in this cycle that's doomed to failure. That belief is one of the major causes of suffering. You keep thinking, erroneously, "Well, other people have it together, and if I could just scramble enough, I could avoid all these bad feelings." And the Buddha said no, it's a myth to think that you can get all the pieces to line up so that everything goes your way. That's what I mean by being open and receptive to situations, rather than trying to control everything. The Buddha taught that we're not actually in control, which is a pretty scary idea. But when you let things be as they are, you will be a much happier, more balanced, compassionate person.

OPRAH: Which brings us back to being in the now, not resisting it or trying to change it.

PEMA: Exactly. "Being in the now" has become such a catchphrase, but it is actually very profound.


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