How Not to Lose Heart

"The reason we often start to go downhill with losing heart is that we allow ourselves to get hooked by our emotions. We may get justifiably enraged against the government or the corporations or the boss - whoever seems to be obstructing justice. But whatever the circumstances, once we get worked up in a major way, we lose our effectiveness. We lose our skill to communicate in such a way that change is really possible. We lose our ability to do the one thing the is most often within our reach - to uplift ourselves and the people we encounter. When we get hooked - when we get really angry, resentful, fearful, or selfish - we start to go a little unconscious. We lose our payu - our awareness of what we're doing with our body, speech, and mind. In this state, it's all too easy to let ourselves spiral downward. The first step in pulling yourself up is to notice when you're going unconscious. Without doing that, nothing can get better for you. How could you change anything if you're not aware of what's going on?"


"The overall point here is that the way not to lose heart is to realise how everything we do matters. It can go either way. If we go toward defensiveness, closing down, and unconsciousness, we add those elements to a planet that already suffers enough from such tendencies. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to feel our vulnerability, if we sit up tall when we want to collapse and refrain from striking out when we're provoked, we are having a positive effect on the larger world. Maintaining our own confidence and well-being benefits our family and our workplace and everyone we communicate with. Happiness is contagious.

When more of us learn to trust our basic goodness, society will get stronger. This doesn't mean there won't be hard times. It doesn't mean the polar icecaps won't melt and the water in the oceans won't rise. But it does mean there will be a lot of resilient people who will never give up on humanity and will always be there to help others. It does mean that when things get rough, it will bring out the best in people, rather than the worst. If we learn how not to lose heart, we will always find ways to make important contributions in our world."


Extracts from 'Welcome the Unwelcome' (chapter 7) by Pema Chödrön (2019)