How To Achieve Inner Peace (Courtesy of Pema Chodron)


plane middle seat How To Achieve Inner Peace (Courtesy of Pema Chodron)Here’s a really interesting idea from Buddhist nun Pema Chodron:

You can train yourself to cope with adversity by working with small grievances. When you get stuck with the middle seat on the airplane, for example, it’s so tempting to devolve into a blue funk of frustration. It feels good to feel aggrieved.

Chodron calls this being “hooked.” When you’re hooked, it means that something evokes a response in you and you don’t want to let it go. “Anger is like that for sure,” says Chodron. “Prejudice is like that. Critical mindedness is like that….There’s something delicious about finding fault with something. And that can include finding fault with one’s self….It’s the image of a fish and the hook and it has this juicy worm on it, and you know the consequences aren’t going to be good. But you cannot resist.”

In addition to the dreaded middle seat, here are three situations in which you can practice saying no to the juicy worm:

  • When you feel too hot or too cold
  • When you get a mosquito bite
  • When you don’t get into the movie you’d hoped to see.

What do you think? How do you tend to handle life’s middle seats? Do you find it easy or difficult to rise above daily grievances, and do you believe that this is connected to handling major adversity?

*The above comes from a Bill Moyers interview with Chodron, from Moyers’ wonderful 2006 series on “Faith and Reason.”


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  1. Eileen on 31.03.2011 at 10:04 (Reply)

    I absolutely agree. It is much harder to say “I feel cross” than to be cross. It is also much harder to say “This is how things are” than to say “This is not how things should be.” It works on all levels. I also agree that there is something self-serving about negativity. We have to consciously work against it in our minds. I find myself temporarily distracted by a fragrant grapefruit or some other beautiful thing and then my brain says, “Wait, you were just bitching about something. Get back to it.” There is a great illustration of this in the wedding scene of the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?! Scientists explain that we have to continually interrupt those negative connections in our brains - by laughing or some other effective means - or we actually fuse certain stimuli with negative response cells.

  2. Kate on 31.03.2011 at 11:41 (Reply)

    A few years ago I would have disagreed. I think on some level I enjoy criticizing and complaining and being upset/dramatic (it’s a family trait!), and I would have said that it doesn’t effect my larger life happiness.

    But, as we all do, I’m getting older and I’m noticing I don’t deal with annoyance, frustration, nervousness as well as I did in my 20s and 30s and I’m starting to suffer from anxiety a lot more.

    I think perhaps a lifetime of cussing under my breath, venting endlessly about minor issues, and impatiently pushing the elevator buttons might be coming home to roost, eh?

    So I’ve been trying to think about this a lot lately and how to change it in myself.

    Thanks for a timely post!

  3. Luna on 31.03.2011 at 19:29 (Reply)

    Do you ever find the less you complain and vent the less you want to?

  4. Jackie on 01.04.2011 at 09:58 (Reply)

    I come from a family like Kate: always taking the negative, critical view. It was an expensive indulgence in my case and it’s been a marathon trying to change.

    I’ll know I really have changed when I don’t even notice people around me criticizing, judging & wallowing… now it really gets under my skin and can get me off track.

    Especially when the complainer is me, lol.

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