Taking The Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears


“Deep down in the human spirit there is a reservoir of courage. It is always available, always waiting to be discovered.

In the last years of his life, Chogyam Trungpa taught unceasingly on the very real possibility of creating enlightened society – a society where individuals cultivated unconditional friendliness for themselves and unconditional caring for others. It is true that when we try to do either of these things, we find that it’s not that easy. The resistance to accepting ourselves and to putting others’ welfare first is surprisingly strong. Nevertheless, he spoke with enthusiasm and confidence about our remarkable capacity for bravery, for open-mindedness, for tenderness – our remarkable capacity to be spiritual warriors, fearless men and women who can help to heal the sorrows of the world.

The Buddhist master Shantideva set forth a path for training in spiritual warriorship. In his text ‘The Way of the Bodhisattva,’ he explains how the bodhisattva or spiritual warrior begins the journey by looking honestly at the current state of his or her mind and emotions. The path of saving others from confusion starts with our willingness to accept ourselves without deception.

You would think that a training whose intention was to prepare us to benefit others would focus exclusively on other people’s needs. But the majority of Shantideva’s instructions entail working skillfully with our own blind spots. Until we do this, we are in the dark about how other people feel and what might soothe them. It only dawns on us slowly that the way sorrow and joy feel to me is the same way they feel to others. As Shantideva put it, since every single being on the earth feels insecurity and pain, just the way I do, then why do I keep putting the emphasis only on me?

This book has been an attempt to look closely at how we stay stuck in this kind of narrow, self-absorbed vision. It has also been an attempt to pass on some of what my teachers have taught me about how to get unhooked. The motivation for presenting this material, however, is not solely the wish that each of us might become happier. The primary intention is that we might follow the advice contained here in order to prepare ourselves to look beyond our own welfare and consider the great suffering of others and the fragile state of our world. As we change our dysfunctional habits, we are simultaneously changing society. Our own awakening is intertwined with the awakening of enlightened society. If we can lose our personal appetite for aggression and addiction, the whole planet will rejoice.

For the sake of all sentient beings, I hope that you will join the growing society of aspiring and full-fledged spiritual warriors who are emerging from every continent on the globe. May we never give up our genuine concern for the world. May our lives become a training ground for awakening our natural intelligence, openness, and warmth, and may this small text be of some support on the way. As Chogyam Trungpa joyfully proclaimed, “We can do it!”

~ ‘Epilogue: Taking This Into The World’ from Taking The Leap.

Written by Pema Chödrön.